Sea piracy plunges to 18-year low but kidnappings on rise

A global maritime watchdog says sea piracy plunged to its lowest levels in 18 years in 2016, but kidnappings of crew members for ransom is escalating off west Africa and in the Sulu Seas near the Philippines.

The International Maritime Bureau says 191 piracy incidents were recorded worldwide, down from 246 in 2015 and the lowest level since 1998. It said pirates hijacked seven vessels and held 151 hostages, down from 15 ships and 271 hostages in 2015.

However, it says maritime kidnappings increased by threefold to 62 people from just 19 people in 2015. It said in its annual report released Tuesday that over half were captured off west Africa, while 28 were taken from vessels in waters around Malaysia and Indonesia and believed transferred to the southern Philippines.