Report: Pirate attacks grow in South America and Caribbean

LONDON, May 23 (Reuters) - Pirate attacks around South American and Caribbean waters are growing, and violence is increasingly used during robberies committed on vessels at anchor, a report showed on Wednesday.

The Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) non-profit group recorded 71 incidents in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2017, a 163 percent increase over 2016.

OBP said the majority of the attacks occurred in territorial waters, with around 59 percent of incidents involving robbery on yachts. Anchorages in Venezuela, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Colombia and St. Lucia were the regional hot spots during 2017, it said.

"We have observed a significant increase in violent incidents and anchorage crime, particularly in the anchorages of Venezuela and the recent violent incidents off Suriname in the first part of this year," said the report's lead author Maisie Pigeon.

In late April a pirate attack off the coast of Suriname left at least a dozen fishermen from neighboring Guyana missing and feared dead with three separate bodies found in what was described by Guyana's President David Granger as a "massacre."

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Suspected Somali pirates sit with their faces covered with cloth sacks on the deck of an Indian Coast Guard vessel in Mumbai February 10, 2011. Twenty-eight pirates were presented to the media on Thursday, after they were captured following an incident in the Indian Ocean, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard said in a statement released to media. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash (INDIA - Tags: CRIME LAW TRANSPORT)
Somali pirates leave court in handcuffs after they were sentenced in the Kenyan coastal town of Mombasa October 23, 2013. Four Somali pirates were sentenced to seven years each in prison on Wednesday by a Kenyan court that found them guilty of hijacking a fishing dhow in the Indian Ocean in 2010. Prosecutors told the court in Mombasa the four were armed with rocket-propelled grenades, an AK-47 rifle, a pistol and other weapons when they took control of the dhow by firing at the crew. REUTERS/Joseoph Okanga (KENYA - Tags: CRIME LAW CIVIL UNREST SOCIETY)
Somali pirates stand at the dock during their sentencing at a court in the Kenyan coastal town of Mombasa October 23, 2013. Four Somali pirates were sentenced to seven years each in prison on Wednesday by a Kenyan court that found them guilty of hijacking a fishing dhow in the Indian Ocean in 2010. Prosecutors told the court in Mombasa the four were armed with rocket-propelled grenades, an AK-47 rifle, a pistol and other weapons when they took control of the dhow by firing at the crew. REUTERS/Joseoph Okanga (KENYA - Tags: CRIME LAW CIVIL UNREST SOCIETY)
A man looks out over Abaka Bay, where one of the island's two boutique hotels is located, on the western side of Ile-a-Vache island, off Haiti's south coast, March 25, 2014. For decades the mostly dirt-poor residents of the small island of Ile-a-Vache off Haiti's south coast lived in anonymity, until last year when the government claimed the 20-square-mile former pirate lair as a "public utility," potentially stripping the 14,000 residents of their land to develop a high-end tourist resort. Picture taken March 25, 2014. REUTERS/stringer (HAITI - Tags: TRAVEL POLITICS SOCIETY)
Suspected Somali pirates sit with their faces covered with cloth sacks on the deck of an Indian Coast Guard vessel in Mumbai February 10, 2011. Twenty-eight pirates were presented to the media on Thursday, after they were captured following an incident in the Indian Ocean, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard said in a statement released to media. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash (INDIA - Tags: CRIME LAW TRANSPORT IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Suspected Somali pirates sit with their hands bound by rope on the deck of an Indian Coast Guard vessel in Mumbai February 10, 2011. Twenty-eight pirates were presented to the media on Thursday, after they were captured following an incident in the Indian Ocean, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard said in a statement released to media. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash (INDIA - Tags: CRIME LAW TRANSPORT)
A small boat being towed by a suspected pirate mothership is destroyed February 2, 2011 by weapons fire from the guided-missile destroyer USS Momsen after the Momsen disrupted an attack on a commercial oil tanker in the Arabian Sea. Momsen and the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill came to the aid of the merchant vessel simultaneously in a coordinated rescue and assist effort after receiving a distress call. Photo taken February 2, 2011. REUTERS/Chief Hull Maintenance Technician John Parkin-US Navy/Handout (SOMALIA - Tags: CRIME LAW MILITARY TRANSPORT) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
The burned out hull of a suspected pirate skiff drifts in the Gulf of Aden April 10, 2010 near the U.S. Navy's amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland. The Ashland, while operating approximately 330 nautical miles off the coast of Djibouti, was fired upon and returned fire disabling a skiff manned by suspected pirates. Ashland deployed a visit, board, search and seizure team to rescue the suspects from the sea. REUTERS/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky-US Navy/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: MILITARY CRIME LAW IMAGES OF THE DAY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Suspected pirates boats are parked on the Indian Ocean beach in Haradheere, 400 km (250 miles) northeast of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, November 18, 2009. Haradheere used to be a small fishing village. Now it is a bustling town where luxury 4x4 cars owned by the pirates and those who bankroll them create honking traffic jams along its pot-holed, dusty streets. Picture taken November 18, 2009. REUTERS/Mohamed Ahmed (SOMALIA CRIME LAW BUSINESS SOCIETY)
Somali pirates stand in the dock as they follow proceedings at the law courts in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa March 10, 2010. The seven pirates were arrested by British Navy forces on November 11, 2008 after they hijacked MV Powerful while armed with dangerous weapons in the high seas of the Indian Ocean. They were then handed over to the Kenyan authorities for prosecution. REUTERS/Joseph Okanga (KENYA - Tags: CRIME LAW CIVIL UNREST IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Portuguese Navy Frigate NRP "Alvares Cabral" special forces marines capture a pirate group that attacked the Spanish flagged fishing vessel "Ortube Berria" in the Indian Ocean in this NATO handout photo made available November 30, 2009. The Spanish vessel sent a distress call and managed to escape from the attack by its own means. The NATO flagship, Seychelles Patrol Boat "Andromache" and two Maritime Patrol Aircraft from the EU Task-Force also operating in the area on a counter-piracy mission were involved in the operation. REUTERS/NATO/Handout (SEYCHELLES POLITICS CRIME LAW) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Somali pirates captured by French forces in the Gulf of Aden are paraded at the northern port town of Bosasso, November 18, 2009. French navy handed over 12 pirates captured in the Indian Ocean to the authorities in the semi-autonomous northern Somali region of Puntland, its deputy police commander Mohamed Said Jaqanaf told Reuters. REUTERS/Abdiqani Hassan (SOMALIA CONFLICT SOCIETY CRIME LAW)
Marines from the Spanish frigate, Blas de Lezo, approach a suspected pirate skiff in the Gulf of Aden in this NATO handout photo made available, June 3, 2009. The frigate responded to a distress call from the Liberian-flagged merchant vessel "United Lady" stating she had been attacked by a skiff that attempted to board her, as well as reporting the position of a dhow possibly acting as a mother ship. REUTERS/NATO/Handout (SOMALIA CONFLICT MILITARY SOCIETY CRIME LAW POLITICS) QUALITY FROM SOURCE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
A soldier aboard the Swedish corvette HMS Malmo aims his machinegun at a boat carrying suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden May 26 2009. The Swedish warship, which is part of international efforts to fight piracy in the gulf, captured seven pirates after they tried to attack a cargo vessel on Tuesday, Swedish armed forces said. REUTERS/Sgt. Mats Nystrom/Combat Camera Swedish Armed Forces/Scanpix (SOMALIA MILITARY CONFLICT IMAGES OF THE DAY) NO COMMERCIAL SALES. MANDATORY CREDIT. QUALITY FROM SOURCE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. SWEDEN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SWEDEN
A Kenyan police officer handcuffs suspected Somali pirates in the coastal city of Mombasa June 10, 2009. The U.S. Navy handed over 17 suspected pirates to Kenyan police on Wednesday, taking the number of seaborne gunmen in jail in coastal towns in east African country to 111. The suspected pirates were hijacking merchant ship MV Amira in the high seas of the Indian Ocean when they were intercepted by the U.S. Navy. REUTERS/Joseph Okanga (KENYA CONFLICT CRIME LAW)
Jonathan Funa, captain of a cargo ship Safmarine Bandama, and Chief Mate Adrian Palang of the Philippines show journalists a hole which was created after pirates fired a rocket propelled grenade during their attempt to hijack the vessel in the Indian Ocean, in Mombasa, May 18, 2009. The ship belonging to Maersk was sailing from Salalah in Oman to Mombasa port with twenty one crew members when it was attacked by nine pirates on two boats who tried to board using ladders. The pirates were eventually thwarted by the crew. REUTERS/Joseph Okanga (KENYA CONFLICT CRIME LAW)
Suspected Somali pirates hold onto their boat in the Indian Ocean near the Gulf of Aden in this photo released by the Spanish Ministry of Defence on May 7, 2009. Somali pirates are planning attacks on shipping using detailed information provided by "advisors" in London with satellite phones, according to an intelligence report cited by Spanish radio on May 11. REUTERS/Ministry of Defence/Handout (CRIME LAW POLITICS)
Forces from France's ship Nivose intercept Somali pirates April 15, 2009, in this picture released by the French Ministry of Defence. French frigate Nivose captured 11 pirates off the coast of Kenya after foiling an attack on a Liberian-flagged merchant ship, the French defence ministry said on Wednesday. Naval forces from around the world are battling pirates in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest shipping routes where even intervention by the U.S. military has not stopped a new spate of hijackings and hostage-taking. QUALITY FROM SOURCE REUTERS/ECPAD-SIRPA MARINE-French Ministry of Defence/Handout (SOMALIA POLITICS CONFLICT SOCIETY MILITARY IMAGE OF THE DAY TOP PICTURE) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Suspected pirates keep their hands in the air as they are being apprehended by the U.S. Navy aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) in Gulf of Aden, Somalia in this photo taken on February 11, 2009 during a counterpiracy operations to detect and deter piracy in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean and Red Sea. Somali pirates hijacked two more cargo vessels and opened fire on a third on April 14, 2009 in attacks that showed their determination to continue striking shipping in the area's strategic waterways. REUTERS/Jason R. Zalasky/U.S. Navy photo/Handout (UNITED STATES CONFLICT SOCIETY POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
A handout photo released to Reuters by the Indian Navy on November 24, 2008 shows a pirate vessel after it was blown up by an Indian Navy warship in the Gulf of Aden on November 18, 2008. The Indian warship destroyed the pirate ship in the Gulf of Aden and gunmen from Somalia seized two more vessels despite a large international naval presence off their lawless country. REUTERS/India's Defence Ministry/Handout (INDIA). FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
Ugandan soldiers from the African Union (AU) patrol the Indian Ocean waters before the released cargo ship "Victoria" docked at the Mogadishu seaport, May 27, 2008. Somali pirates released the Jordanian-flagged cargo ship hijacked last week off the lawless coast of the Horn of Africa nation, a shipping agent said. "Victoria", was carrying 4,200 tonnes of sugar in humanitarian aid sent from Denmark to the Somali capital Mogadishu. REUTERS/Omar Faruk (SOMALIA)
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In a separate incident in May a fishing boat captain was shot dead after his vessel was attacked off Suriname while the rest of the crew survived.

OBP could not give a total economic cost for attacks in Latin America and the Caribbean, but said ship stores and crew belongings reported stolen were estimated to have totaled nearly $1 million in 2017.

The cost of piracy in East Africa reached $1.4 billion in 2017, down from $1.7 billion in 2016 and $7 billion in 2010 during the peak of attacks by Somali gangs.

Since then, the presence of international naval forces, the deployment of private armed guards on board vessels and defensive measures by ship captains has curbed activity.

OBP said there were 54 incidents in 2017 versus 27 in 2016 after a surge of attacks in the first quarter of 2017.

"There are now a wide range of threats to shipping near the Horn of Africa that have been complicated by the conflict and instability in Yemen," said Phil Belcher, marine director with association INTERTANKO, which represents the majority of the world's tanker fleet.

Piracy risks remained elevated in West African waters, with 97 incidents recorded in 2017 versus 95 in 2016, with the total cost estimated at $818.1 million in 2017 versus $793.7 million, OBP said.

"Kidnap-for-ransom continues to plague the region, which is a trend that has unfortunately continued from 2016," OBP's Pigeon said. (Editing by William Maclean)

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