A group of former pirates in central Somalia regions has launched an anti-piracy campaign in their regions in order to persuade colleagues still in the field to renounce their activities.

Somali pirates aboard the Ukrainian tanker MV Haina in 2008 (Picture: US Navy)

The group will start touring areas along the pirate-invested coastline in Galguduud and Mudug regions including Hobyo, Xarardheere and Gaan. A former Somali pirate kingpin Muhammad Abdi Hasan, who is also known as “Afweyne” (Big Mouth) is leading the anti-piracy campaigners.

Piracy in the Indian Ocean, although far from eradicated, appears to have peaked thanks to land-based efforts by the regional Puntland government and smarter counter-piracy measures at sea.

There were 70 Somali-related attacks on shipping in the first nine months of 2012, compared to 199 over the same period in 2011, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). Worldwide figures were brought down by a huge reduction in Somali piracy, though East and West Africa remain the worst hit areas, with 150 attacks in 2012.

The Gulf of Aden has now been surpassed by West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea as the world’s piracy hotspot, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB) global piracy report revealed on January 16th. Twenty six people were kidnapped for ransom in Nigeria. Six crewmembers were killed and 32 were injured or assaulted.

“IMB’s piracy figures show a welcome reduction in hijackings and attacks to ships. But crews must remain vigilant, particularly in the highly dangerous waters off East and West Africa,” said Captain Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB, which has monitored piracy worldwide since 1991.

IMB says navies are deterring piracy off Africa’s east coast, with pre-emptive strikes and robust action against mother ships. So too are private armed security teams and crews’ application of “Best Management Practices”.

In what appears to be a new piracy hotspot, a French-owned tanker, the Gascogne, has been hijacked off Cote d’Ivoire with  19 Togolese crew on board, the third attack in the area in recent months. The vessel lost contact on February 3rd, according to the IMB.

Noel Choong, head of the bureau’s Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre told AFP  it appeared pirates are moving towards Cote d’Ivoire because Nigeria and Benin have increased patrols in the Gulf of Guinea.

Meanwhile, the online magazine Think Africa Press says that piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is likely to increase in the next three months, citing the “steady increase in the capabilities of pirate groups” since 2012, as well as the “very limited capabilities of regional navies” as having a major impact on the authorities ability to deal with the issue.

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