The ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported that the incidents of piracy and armed robbery are at their lowest levels in 27 years. The organization, which was founded in 1991, said that during the first half of 2021, it received the lowest number of reported incidents for the first half of any year since 1994. They, however, cautioned, that the risks remain for seafarers and especially in certain regions of the world.
IMB’s latest global piracy report details 68 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships during the first six months of 2021 compared to 98 incidents during the same period last year. The IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) highlighted that in 91 percent of the incidents, 61 vessels, the ships were boarded. In addition, four attacks were attempted, two vessels were fired upon, and one vessel was hijacked since January 2021. Despite the overall decline in reported incidents, violence against crews continued with 50 crew kidnapped, incidents where crew were threatened, taken hostage, or assaulted, and one crew member was killed and another injured.
The Gulf of Guinea continues to be particularly dangerous for seafarers, with 32 percent of all reported incidents taking place in the region, according to IMB. The region accounted for all 50 kidnapped crew and the single crew fatality during the first half of 2021.
The number of kidnappings recorded in the Gulf of Guinea, however, during the most recent quarter was the lowest since the second quarter of 2019. IMB warns that the pirates continue to target all types of vessels operating in the region and that fishing vessels have been hijacked in the Gulf of Guinea and later used as mother ships to target other merchant vessels.
“Whilst IMB welcomes reduced piracy and armed robbery activity in the Gulf of Guinea, the risk to seafarers still remains,” said IMB Director Michael Howlett. “By reporting all incidents to the Regional Authorities and IMB PRC, seafarers can maintain pressure against pirates. Bringing together maritime response authorities through initiatives – like Nigeria’s Deep Blue Project and Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaboration Forum – will continue and strengthen knowledge sharing channels and reduce risk to seafarers in the region.”
As with other security organizations, the IMB is also warning that the pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are carrying out attacks further from the coast. For example, in early June, a bulk carrier was approached by a skiff with six pirates while approximately 210 nautical miles off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria. In that instance, the vessel was able to prevent the armed pirates from coming onboard, but it illustrates the distances at which the pirates are threatening vessels.
IMB also highlights the dangers of operating in the Singapore Strait, similar to the numerous reports of boardings and thefts from ReCAAP. Sixteen incidents were reported to the IMB center in the first six months of 2021. This was up from 11 reported incidents during the same period in 2020 in the Singapore Strait. According to IMB, these attacks are considered opportunistic, but in seven of the incidents, the perpetrators were armed with knives. In three separate incidents, seafarers were reported to have been either threatened, assaulted, or injured.
The report also highlights an increase in incidents in Peru’s Callao Anchorage. There were four reports in the second quarter of 2021 with knives reported in three of these attacks. In comparison to the first half of 2019 and 2020, IMB reports that this represents a two-fold increase in the number of incidents, with nine incidents reported in total for 2021. Perpetrators in the region possess the capacity to carry out violent attacks, with two separate incidents of crew being taken hostage and assaulted occurring in the first six months of 2021.
Vessels are also advised to take precautionary measures while anchored in Manila Bay, Philippines. IMB recorded four incidents during the second quarter of 2021.