Incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery attacks last year fell to the lowest recorded level in almost three decades, but sustained efforts are still needed to keep pirates at bay, the ICC International Maritime Bureau said in its annual report.
The IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre has been the single point of contact to report crimes of maritime piracy and armed robbery at sea since 1991.
The IMB’s report recorded 115 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in 2022, down from 132 incidents in 2021. Half of them occurred in Southeast Asian waters, particularly in the Singapore Straits, where incidents continue to rise.
Perpetrators were successful in gaining access to vessels in 95% of the reported incidents. Breaking the numbers down, there were 107 vessels boarded, two vessels hijacked, five attempted attacks and one vessel fired upon. In many cases, vessels were either anchored or steaming when boarded, with nearly all the incidents occurring in the dark of night, according to the IMB.
Gulf of Guinea Piracy
The Gulf of Guinea saw a continued and much needed reduction is attributed to an overall decrease of pirate activity, with the number of incidents falling from 35 in 2021 to 19 in 2022. Sustained efforts are however needed to ensure the continued safety of seafarers in the region, which remains dangerous as evidenced by two incidents in the last quarter of 2022, the IMB said.
In mid-November, a roll-on/roll-off vessel was commandeered by pirates around 28 nautical miles southwest of Turtle Islands in Sierra Leone. All crew were taken hostage and the pirates tried to navigate the vessel through shallow waters, resulting in the vessel running aground. The crew managed to free themselves and took refuge in the citadel until Sierra Leone authorities boarded the vessel. In mid-December, a Suezmax tanker was also fired upon, 87nm NW of Bata, Equatorial Guinea.
“The IMB applauds the prompt and decisive actions of the international navies and regional authorities in the Gulf of Guinea which have positively contributed to the drop in reported incidents and ensuring continued safety to crews and trade,” said IMB Director Michael Howlett. “Both these latter incidents do however cause concern and illustrate that efforts to enhance maritime security in the region must be sustained.”
Masters are also strongly encouraged to follow industry Best Management Practice recommendations in these waters.
Piracy in the Singapore Straits
A third of all incidents reported globally in 2022 took place in the Singapore Straits, with underway vessels successfully boarded in all 38 incidents. The majority of vessels boarded were over 50,000 DWT, including six laden vessels over 150,000 DWT. While these are considered low level opportunistic crimes that fall under the definition of armed robbery, crews continue to be at risk.
In the 38 reported incidents, two crew were threatened and four were taken hostage for the duration of the incident. It has also been reported that in at least three incidents a gun was used to threaten the crew.
“We commend local authorities for investigating nearly all reported incidents,” said Howlett. “Being one of the most crucial and busy waterways for trade, these incidents continue to be a cause of concern as they not only have an impact on crew safety but also potential navigational and environmental consequences.”
The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre said it believes there is a degree of under reporting as well as late reporting of incidents from these waters and encourages Masters to report all incidents as early as possible so that local authorities are able to identify, investigate and apprehend the perpetrators.
Incidents reported in the Indonesian archipelago remain at relatively low levels thanks to the continued efforts of the Indonesian Marine Police.
South America Piracy Threats
Despite a noticeable decrease in the number of reported incidents in Central and South American waters, ports in Brazil, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico and Haiti continue to be affected by the crime of armed robbery. The reduction is partially attributed to the decrease in reported incidents in Callao anchorage in Peru which saw a 33% decrease compared to 2021.
For a fourth year in row, there were no incidents of piracy or armed robbery by Somali-based pirates in 2022.
“Although the opportunity for incidents has reduced, the Somali pirates continue to possess the capability and capacity to carry out incidents. All merchant ships are advised to adhere to the recommendations in the latest BMP, while transiting these waters,” the IMB report said.
This reminder is particularly important because, as of January 1, 2023, the shipping industry has removed its “High Risk Area” (HRA) designation for the western Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden, and southern Red Sea which was established in 2010.
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