History and Piracy of Maritime Piracy

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Maritime piracy cases have been a problem for centuries. The United Nations (UN) has implemented four anti-piracy resolutions. Attacks have increased significantly in the past several years. In 2013, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Center recorded 138 piracy events in the first six months of 2013. There were approximately 7 hijacking incidents and 127 sailors taken hostage.

In June 2013, several heads of West and Central African countries signed the Code of Conduct Concerning the Repression of Piracy. It is expected that this will significantly reduce the number of piracy incidents in Africa.

Recent Piracy Hijacking Attempts

On April 22, 2013, the vessel Hansa Marburg, a German container ship was hijacked by pirates who took four hostages. The ship was owned by Leonhard & Blumberg. It was four weeks until the four seamen were released on May 24, 2013. At the same time, a smaller attack occurred in April, the vessel City of Xiamen, was attacked off the coast of Nigeria and the crew was released after five days. In August, Nigeria’s navy killed 12 pirates after they attempted to flee a fuel tanker that they had hijacked.

Increase in Oil Piracy

With the increased need for oil and significant profits for it on the black market, there has been an increase in oil piracy. It is predicted that the United States along has lost one-fifth of its oil imported from Nigeria. In total, 117,000 metric tons of oil production around $100 million has been stolen by pirates.

This increase in maritime piracy has significant safety concerns. Maersk, the Danish company that was depicted in the hijacking by Somali pirates in blockbuster film Captain Phillips, has taken extreme measures to prevent future piracy incidents by keeping their approach to unsafe ports a secret. They do not announce their docking until minutes before their arrival. However, these measures have not prevented hijacking incidents and there has been a spike in these events in West Africa over the past several years.

Experienced Maritime Piracy Lawyers

Frequently shipping companies fail to implement proper safety and security measures to protect their crew members. If you have been a victim of a hijacking and experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or physical injuries, please contact Pierce | Skrabanek.

We have significant experience handling piracy incidents and can provide you with the guidance necessary. Please feel free to call Pierce | Skrabanek for a free consultation. We handle all lawsuits on a contingency basis. We have obtained millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for clients injured offshore.

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Our law firm has experience handling a variety of maritime cases including piracy lawsuits in foreign waters. In recent years, there has been an increase or pirate activity in certain areas including Gulf of Aden, Somali Basin, Arabian Sea, Northern Indian Sea and the Red Sea. The most high risk area for pirate activity is the area bounded by the Suez and the Strait of Hormuz.

Best Management Practices and Ship Protection Measures

The Best Management Practices Guide has provided guidelines for dealing with piracy. In the event that the ship owners or captain know that they will be operating in an area where pirate operations are common, it is recommended that they register with the Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa (MSCHOA). Additionally, reporting with the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) office is critical because they can provide naval/military force services.

It is also suggested that ship protection measures be implemented that prevent pirates from boarding or entering the ship. This may involve altering the vessel. It is critical that crew members be able to escape the vessel and not be trapped. The Best Management Practices recommends several rules to avoid piracy:

  • Do not be alone – reporting to MSCHOA and UKMTO is critical
  • Do not be detected – research MSCHOA and UKMTO websites prior to crew boarding the ship and use navigation lights only
  • Do not be surprised – utilize radars, reporting measures and security protocols
  • Do not be vulnerable – make sure that ship protection measures are in place and prevent pirates from boarding
  • Do not be boarded – increase the vessel speed, place guard rails, water spray and foam measures, razor wire to prevent boarding and maneuver ship
  • Do not be controlled – ensure that pirates do not gain access to equipment or access routes and follow security protocols

The typical pirate attacks include two small high speed open boats that approach from either side of the stern. Pirates are typically armed with small fire arms and rocket propelled grenades. The most common frequency for the attack is in the early morning hours.


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