by Chris Mgidu
NAIROBI, May 4 (Xinhua) -- A global maritime body on Thursday urged foreign vessels not to be complacent as they transit the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden amid new hijackings off the coast of Somalia after a five-year lull.
The latest report by the International Chamber of Commerce's International Maritime Bureau (IMB) warned that Somali pirates are still capable of carrying out attacks against foreign vessels.
IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan said recent attacks in which Somali pirates successfully hijacked a small bunkering tanker and a dhow, both within their territorial waters, should serve as a warning against complacency.
"IMB continues to encourage all vessels transiting waters around Somalia to follow the Best Management Practices for Protection (BMP4) recommendations," said Mukundan.
According to IMB, a total of 28 crew were taken hostage and subsequently released within a relatively short time.
IMB suspects that these incidents were opportunistic, particularly as the hijacked vessels were not following the Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia Based Piracy (BMP4) recommendations.
"The presence of international navies who patrol these waters is extremely important as it provides an added layer of deterrence to the pirates and more importantly helps to secure one of the most important trade routes of the world," Mukundan added.
The African maritime industry along the Indian Ocean had until 2013 been greatly affected by piracy that raised the costs of shipping as insurance companies and private ship security companies increased their premiums to mitigate the risks.
The latest report said globally, pirates and armed robbers attacked 43 ships and captured 58 seafarers in the first quarter of 2017, slightly more than the same period last year.
The global report highlights persisting violence in piracy hotspots off Nigeria and around the Southern Philippines, where two crew members were killed in February.
Indonesia also reported frequent incidents, mostly low-level thefts from anchored vessels. In total, 33 vessels were boarded and four fired upon in the first three months of 2017, the IMB said.
Armed pirates hijacked two vessels, both off the coast of Somalia, where no merchant ship had been hijacked since May 2012. Four attempted incidents were also recorded.
"Of the 27 seafarers kidnapped worldwide for ransom between January and March, 63 percent were in the Gulf of Guinea," IMB said.
According to IMB, Nigeria is the main kidnap hot-spot, with 17 crew taken in three separate incidents, up from 14 in the same period in 2016.
"The Gulf of Guinea is a major area of concern, consistently dangerous for seafarers, and signs of kidnappings are increasing. IMB has worked closely with the response agencies in the region including the Nigerian Navy which has provided valuable support, but more needs to be done to crack down on the area's armed gangs," Mukundan said.
"We urge vessels to report all incidents so that the true level of piracy activity can be assessed," he added.