The International Maritime Bureau’s latest report reveals the first rise in pirate attacks since their previous peak in the mid 1990s. In one particularly savage incident in the Philippines in March, pirates shot dead the captain of a passenger boat and two of his crew before tying them to their anchor and tossing it overboard. They then shot the two remaining crew members and escaped in a motor boat.
The sharp rise in pirate attacks is blamed in large part on the collapse of law and order in Somalia and political unrest in Nigeria. The seas around the two African countries are now regarded as some of the most dangerous in the world.
....The IMB’s records are a litany of brutality. Last year pirates who attacked a Danish tanker off the coast of Nigeria tied up the bosun and threatened to cut off his ears unless he told them the code for the locks on the cargo control room.
In another attack off the Nigerian coast, a Panamanian tug boat was boarded by five men who approached in a small fast boat. The pirates rounded up the crew on the bridge, smashed a bottle over the master’s head and forced each crew member to hand over their belongings.
A cargo ship attacked off the coast of Somalia launched parachute flares at the pirates when the captain realised they were about to open fire with a rocket propelled grenade. And a gang of pirates who boarded a Canadian yacht at anchor off Madagascar slashed the skipper’s hand and legs, tried to strangle his wife and made off with everything the couple had.
Not that the pirates always have it their own way. The IMB’s report reveals that in February this year a Maltese tanker successfully fought off a pirate attack off the coast of Somalia by adopting a zig-zag course and turning its fire hoses on the pirate boat until the would be attackers, who were firing at the tanker, eventually gave up and sailed away.