Pirates’ tactics shift away from hijacking and towards kidnapping

boat sea

The tactics of pirates around the globe are shifting away from hijacking and towards kidnapping, according to analysis by security experts IHS Markit.

The number of kidnappings by pirates has risen to 44 so far this year, which equates to 37% of crewmembers involved in a piracy situation being kidnapped. That compares with just nine kidnaps in 2014, a number which rose to 19 last year.

The areas most affected by piracy include Southeast Asia, near the Malacca Straits, the Gulf of Aden, and the Gulf of Guinea.

According to IHS Markit in 2014, there were 245 piracy attacks across 26 countries, 20 fewer than 2013. The number of incidents in 2015 was similar while so far 2016 has had fewer than 100 attacks, making it the quietest year in six years.

The seas around the Philippines are the most pirated, with areas off Nigeria and India second and third, respectively.

In the Gulf of Guinea, kidnapping accounted for 20% of all piracy indents in 2012, hijacking 24% and robbery 56%. Between January and September 2016, those number had increased to kidnaps accounting to 60% of all piracy incidents whiles 40% were robberies.

Devlin McStay, data analyst at IHS Maritime and Trade said: “Piracy has changed in the past three years. The number of piracy attacks is decreasing overall, but kidnapping is becoming more common. We are seeing the number of kidnappings rise in the piracy hotspots of Southeast Asia and West Africa.”

“Tankers and bulk carriers are the target of choice, with smaller product chemical and oil tankers the most sought after. A healthy demand for black market fuel and cargo that can be transferred quickly, means that these are the most sought after.”

IHS says it has also recorded an escalation of militant terrorist groups in Southeast Asia employing a modus operandi more commonly associated with the region’s pirate groups.

Between March and July 2016, armed cells affiliated with the Abu Sayyaf are suspected to have been behind at least six known cases of kidnap-for-ransom operations.