Asia accounted for around 75 percent of the world’s maritime piracy and robbery incidents in 2014, according to the latest report released by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
According to the IMB’s figures, which were widely reported in media outlets Wednesday, there were 245 actual and attempted acts of piracy worldwide last year, and 183 of those occurred in Asian waters.
The IMB specifically highlighted the fact that within the overall recorded numbers, attacks against small tankers off the Southeast Asian coast had caused a rise in global ship hijackings from 12 in 2013 to 21 in 2014. “The global increase in hijackings is due to a rise in attacks against coastal tankers in Southeast Asia,” Pottengal Mukundan, director of the IMB said in a statement posted on its website. “Gangs of armed thieves have attacked small tankers in the region for their cargoes, many looking specifically for marine diesel and gas oil to steal and then sell.”
Southeast Asia as a subregion saw 141 piracy incidents in 2014, with the vast majority of them carried out in Indonesian waters. That is also an increase from the 2013 figure of 126 incidents.
While the IMG commended some countries in the subregion – specifically the Indonesian Marine Police and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency – for responding to and stemming the increase in attacks in port hotspots, it warned that there was a risk that mostly low-level thefts from vessels using guns and long knives could become even more violent in the future if crackdowns against them were not sustained.
“It is important that these gangs are caught and punished under law, before the attacks become more audacious and violent,” Mukundan said.
Southeast Asia is home to vital shipping lanes such as the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca, where about half of world trade and a third of the world’s oil supply passes through. Though littoral states have successfully enhanced regional cooperation in recent years to address piracy concerns, the IMB’s numbers confirm growing anxieties that incidents have nonetheless been on the rise.
Despite Asia clearly being a global hotspot, the IMB stressed that the overall figures suggested good news for the world more generally, since the global number of piracy attacks registered in 2014 was 44 percent lower than 2011, when piracy off the Somali coast was raging, and the lowest ever recorded since 2007.