KIDNAPPINGS of sailors by pirates have soared, the Mission to Seafarers has said. Three times as many people were captured and held ransom in 2016 than in the previous year.
Sixty-two seafarers were kidnapped in 15 separate incidents of piracy in 2016, the Mission said, quoting figures published by the ICC International Maritime Bureau, a department of the International Chamber of Commerce.
Half of those snatched were taken from the seas off West Africa, with a further 28 being taken while sailing near Malaysia and Indonesia.
Despite the spike in kidnappings, however, piracy seems to be declining overall. There were 191 incidents of piracy in 2016, compared with 246 in 2015.
Pottengal Mukundan, director of the ICC International Maritime Bureau, said: “The continued fall in piracy is good news, but certain shipping routes remain dangerous, and the escalation of crew kidnapping is a worrying trend in some emerging areas.”
One of those kidnapped in the waters surrounding Malaysia in 2016 was Juergen Kantner, who was captured by Islamist terrorist group Abu Sayyaf from his yacht in November. After the deadline for a ransom of £483,000 passed without payment on Sunday, a video was released online showing militants beheading him. Mr Kantner’s partner, Sabine Merz, died during the raid on their yacht in November.
Abu Sayyaf, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, seeks to establish an independent Islamic state in the region.