London, 29 January 2003 - The vulnerability of shipping
to terrorist attacks is highlighted in a report on piracy
and other criminal attacks at sea issued by the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB)
The IMB annual piracy
report for 2002 says that attacks like the one in the Gulf of Aden last October, when the French tanker Limburg was rammed by a boat packed with explosives, were difficult to prevent. "No shipboard response can protect the ship in these circumstances."
The only answer was for coastal states to make sure that approaches to their ports
were secure. IMB recommended that port authorities designate approach channels under coast guard or police supervision from which all unauthorized craft would be banned.
"The risk of terrorist attack can perhaps never be eliminated, but sensible steps can be taken to reduce the risk," the IMB said. "The issue here is how seriously do the governments take the threat of maritime terrorism…Post-Limburg, we cannot continue to hope for the best and ignore the lessons."
Commenting on last year's tally of 370 attacks on shipping
at sea worldwide - up from 335 in 2001 - IMB noted that most occurred while ships were at anchor
. A marked increase in successful boarding by pirates combined with a drop in the number of attempted attacks suggested that many ships were complacent about the need for additional precautionary measures. "Vigilant anti-piracy watch is still the best deterrent," the report said.
There was a substantial rise in hijackings, up from 16 to 25 incidents. Many involved smaller boats, such as tugs, barges and fishing
boats, in the Malacca Straits and Indonesian waters. Crime syndicates in the area were believed to be targeting vessels carrying valuable palm oil
and gas oil
IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan commented: "In some parts
of the world it is all too easy to board a merchant vessel unlawfully. Against the current
concern in respect of maritime terrorism, it is vital that coastal states allocate resources to patrolling their waters more effectively. Failing this, we do not foresee a reduction in these incidents."
Although the number of crew killed in 2002 was down to 10 compared with 21 in 2001, that figure concealed a chilling statistic - 24 passengers or crew were missing, and most of these must be considered dead. The report's summary of attacks on ships frequently noted that pirates threw crew members into the sea, leaving them to drown.
Indonesia again experienced the highest number of attacks
, with 103 reported incidents in 2002. Piracy attacks in Bangladesh ranked second highest
with 32 attacks and India
was third with 18 attacks.
In South America
, Dominican Republic
and Guyana all showed a marked increase in attacks.
The waters off Somalia are among the most dangerous in the world
. "The risk of attack to vessels staying close to the coastline from Somali armed militias has now increased from one of possibility to certainty," the IMB said..
"Any vessel, not making a scheduled call in a Somali port, which slows down, or stops close to the Somali coast will be boarded by these gangs." They had extorted substantial sums from owners for the return of the vessel and crew.
The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur, which runs a satellite
warning system for ships at sea, was a major contributor to the report. The Centre provides assistance free of charge to ships that have been attacked. A weekly summary of the centre's daily satellite
reports is posted on the Internet
This front-line unit of IMB in its fight against piracy is funded by donations from the shipping industry.
The IMB's Annual Report on piracy seeks not only to list the facts, but also to analyze developments in piracy and to identify piracy-prone areas so that crews can take preventive action. Copies of the report, priced £18 inclusive of postage, and further information can be obtained from:
ICC- International Maritime Bureau
1 Linton Road, Barking
Essex IG11 8HG, United Kingdom
Tel. ++ 44 20 8591 3000
Fax. ++ 44 20 8594 2833