Current reports on piracy by the IMO and the IMB - a comparison1 M. Bruyneel Information specialist Abstract: Short review of current reports on piracy by the International Maritime Organisation and the International Maritime Bureau. A comparison between reports by both organisations is made. Some examples of differences are highlighted and an explanation is offered for some of the differences between reports. Introduction Piracy is a problem that has never really disappeared from the seas. It was not until the first half of the 1980s, however that piracy became an increasing problem again. Even regular media started paying attention to it. On an international level the problem was discussed and it was decided that something needed to be done about it. The first step after identifying that there was a problem, was analysing and defining it. To do that there was a need to collect information on the problem. So far there are only two organisations which have tried to do this: the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). Reports by both organisations The UN Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) regularly holds meetings and discussions on an international level using the information collected by the IMO. Since the 1980s the IMO was instructed by the MSC to investigate the problem and it produced the first three detailed reports on the problem in 1983 – 1985. From this point on information on incidents was systematically collected and analysed. At the sixty-fifth session of the MSC in May 1995 it was decided that the IMO would publish it’s findings on a regular basis in monthly and quarterly reports. At the sixty-sixth session of the MSC in June 1996 it was decided that the IMO would prepare, after March of every year, an annual summary of all acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships, which had occurred during the previous year and had been reported to the Organisation, based on their actual date and time of occurrence. Since July 2002 the IMO was also instructed to classify separately: any reported incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea vis-a-vis acts of armed robbery allegedly committed in ports, as well as attempted acts of armed robbery. Later that year it was amended to: any reported incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea (international or territorial waters) vis-a-vis acts of armed robbery allegedly committed in port areas, as well as attempted acts of armed robbery. Since the beginning of the 1980s the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) of the International Chamber of Commerce has also been involved in investigations of the piracy problem. In 1987 it co-hosted a workshop on piracy at sea together with the Marine Policy Centre, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. 1 This paper was prepared for the People and the Sea II Conference organised by the Centre for Maritime Research (MARE) and the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) from 4 to 6 September 2003, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The author would like to thank the MARE IIAS for providing the author with a grant enabling him to attend the event. The views and opinions expressed in this paper as well as any errors are the author’s own. The author can be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org In 1989 the IMB published the book Piracy at Sea which contains much details on reported piracy incidents. It was not until the establishment of the Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) in 1992, however, that the IMB started collecting and distributing information on piracy in a systematic way. Each year since it’s establishment the PRC has published quarterly and annual reports. Over the years these reports have come to contain more details on specific piracy incidents as well as a detailed analysis of trends. Information collected With a lot of help and kind assistance of people at the IMO and IMB I have managed to gather as much information as possible on the reported incidents reported by both organisations. Over the past few years I have put the details of the reported incidents in a database and using this database I have tried to match all reported incidents from both organisations. An analysis of incidents is not easy because occasionally dates are not quite the same or details of ships involved in the incidents do not completely match. For a detailed comparison it is not possible to use the monthly reports of the IMO since on occasion the reported incidents are excluded from the annual report. The reason is that some initial reported incidents eventually do not turn out to be actual attempts or acts of piracy. For the same reason the weekly piracy reports as well as the quarterly reports by the IMB can not be used. Comparison A detailed comparison and analysis of reported incidents by the IMO and the IMB can therefore only be made by comparing those reported in the annual reports. So far I have managed to collect only some of the annual reports from both organisations. That is why the comparison in this paper is limited to the annual reports on the last 5 years: 1998 – 2002. Table 1 is a brief comparison of 5 years which is made based on the reported totals: 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 IMO 210 309 471 370 383 IMB2 192 285 469 335 370 A more detailed analysis of the annual reports shows more differences in the reports for the same years. Table 2 contains more information on specific differences: 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 Reported by both IMB and IMO 182 277 456 323 357 Reported by IMB only 9 6 13 12 13 Reported by IMO only 28 27 15 43 26 IMB annual report3 191 283 469 335 370 IMO annual report3 210 304 471 366 383 All incidents in annual reports 219 310 484 378 396 2 The total number in later IMB annual reports for 1998 is 202, and the total number for 1999 is 300. 3 The total number of reported incidents for a year is often slightly higher than the number of incidents on which full details are included in the annual report. That is why this row mentions lower numbers than the total numbers of piracy incidents mentioned in table 1. From table 2 it is immediately obvious that most reported incidents are included in the annual reports of both organisations. Some incidents, however, are not included in the final total for the year. Table 3 shows some of the more obvious examples: Vessel name: Year IMB IMO Total Oxfordshire 1998 0 1 1 Spar Emerald 1998 2 2 3 Mihalis P. 1999 3 6 6 Uni-Modest 1999 1 0 1 Dutch Concrete 2000 0 1 1 Actuaria 2000 1 0 1 Actuaria 2001 2 4 5 P&O Nedlloyd Everest 2001 0 1 1 Hornestrand 2002 1 3 3 Vostochnyy 2002 1 2 2 Reasons for variations include: ! Some incidents are reported after the annual report was published and the details could not be included anymore. This is usually the case where the annual reports of the IMB are concerned since their reports are published in January: it is a well known fact that some piracy incidents are reported by ship owners 1 or 2 months after they happen. The IMO annual reports appear in March of each year so these reports are less affected by this reporting time lag ! Differences in interpretation of reported piracy incidents. Both organisations use their own definitions to determine whether an incident is really an act of piracy or armed robbery at sea ! Differences in interpretations concerning individual piracy incidents: some piracy attempts are heaped together as a single incident by one organisation while the other organisation considers them to be separate acts/attempts ! Problems with regard to the communication of reported incidents between both organ- isations. Despite close co-operation these may account for some differences. The graphic below shows that the differences in reported incidents have already become smaller in the past 7 years. Graphic 1: Piracy incidents reported from 1981 – 20024. 4 The numbers for this graphic are gathered from annual reports, books, and journal or newspaper articles. Conclusion If the piracy problem is ever to be analysed the collection of data is of the utmost importance. The IMO and the IMB have done an excellent job over the years since it is not easy to collect data on piracy. Many ship owners are reluctant to report attacks and/or attempts on their vessels because it might damage their reputation and may bring extra costs if vessels are delayed during investigations. Knowing all details of piracy attacks and when a piracy report concerns an actual act or attempt will help further scientific research into the problem. The first reason for the difference in reported piracy attacks has to do with the 1 – 2 month time lag which may prevent the inclusion in the annual reports. This external reason for reported differences can be solved by issuing an additional supplement sometime after publication of the annual report. The other reasons for differences of reported piracy incidents between both organisations are in part based on the fact that each collects information on it’s own and both interpret the incidents based on different definitions. As far as I can determine from reports on statistical data by both organisations the differences have already become smaller since both organisations started co-operating. The graphic on the previous page clearly illustrates this. Closer co-operation may still further decrease the difference in the number of reported piracy incidents. Especially if both organisations adopt a single definition or can agree on a similar interpretation of reports. Ideally, setting up a single organisation which collects information on piracy incidents and reports to both the IMO and the IMB, can also solve this. A single database which can be shared between both organisations may also solve communication problems.
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