Illustration courtesy IMB
Despite declining maritime piracy trends worldwide in 2019, the Gulf of Guinea saw an unprecedented rise in the number of crew kidnappings, the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre said in its annual report.
In total, the IMB received reports of 162 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships worldwide, down from the 201 reported incidents in 2018. The incidents included four hijacked vessels, 11 vessels fired upon, 17 attempted attacks, and 130 vessels boarded, according to the latest IMB figures.
While the overall decline in piracy incidents is an encouraging development, vessels remain at risk in several regions, especially the Gulf of Guinea, according to the IMB.
The number of crew kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea increased more than 50 percent from 78 in 2018 to 121 in 2019, representing 90 percent crew kidnappings globally in 2019, according to the IMB. In the last quarter alone, 64 crew members were kidnapped across six separate incidents. The region also accounted for 64 total incidents, including all four vessel hijackings that occurred in 2019, as well as 10 out of 11 vessels that reported coming under fire.
“We remain concerned that this region has recorded an unprecedented rise in crew kidnaps. These latest statistics confirm the importance of increased information exchange and coordination between vessels, reporting and response agencies in the Gulf of Guinea Region. Without the necessary reporting structures in place, we will be unable to accurately highlight the high-risk areas for seafarers and address the rise of piracy incidents in these persistently vulnerable waters.” – Michael Howlett, Director of the ICC International Maritime Bureau.
The Singapore Straits experienced a similar rise in armed robbery attacks with 12 reported incidents in 2019, including 11 in the last quarter of 2019, the IMB said. The same region accounted for just three incidents in all of 2018. IMB’s latest figures also show that vessels were successfully boarded in 10 incidents across the region last year. Despite this rise, however, IMB considers the intensity of the attacks in the Singapore Straits to be ‘low level’ and usually limited to armed robbery from the vessel.
“This is a distraction and potentially dangerous for the crew in control of the vessel whilst navigating through these congested waters”, continued Howlett. “The IMB PRC is grateful to Singapore law enforcement agencies for responding promptly to some of these incidents.”
In Indonesian ports, armed robbery attacks fell to 25 in 2019, down from 36 incidents the year before. Dialogue and coordination between the Indonesian Marine Police (IMP) and the IMB PRC has led to a decrease in regional incidents, according to the report.
For the first time since 2015, no piracy or armed robbery incidents were reported around Bangladesh.
As for Somali piracy, 2019 was another quiet year, but risks remain, the IMB warns.
“Across the Indian Ocean, Somalia reported zero piracy incidents, yet the IMB PRC advises that vessels and crews remain cautious when traveling through the region,” the IMB said. In particular, the report warns that “Somali pirates continue to possess the capacity to carry out attacks in the Somali basin and wider Indian Ocean.”
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