IMB: Piracy Incidents Down in 2019, But Gulf of Guinea Risks Remain

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The number of piracy and armed robbery at sea incidents was down in first nine months of 2019, but  piracy hotspots like the Gulf of Guinea continue to pose a threat to the safety of mariners and ships, according to the International Chamber of Commerce International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) report for the third quarter of 2019. 

Overall, a total of 119 incidents have been reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC) in 2019, compared to 156 incidents for the same period in 2018. The 2019 incidents include 95 vessels boarded, 10 vessels fired upon, 10 attempted attacks, and four vessels hijacked, according to the IMB PRC. 

The number of crew taken hostage also saw a significant drop, declining from 112 in the first nine months of 2018 to 49 so far in 2019. 

The IMB PRC notes that while the overall number of incidents has dropped, incidents involving guns and knives remain consistent. There have been 24 knife-related and 35 gun-related incidents reported in 2019, compared to 25 and 37, respectively, for the first nine months of 2018. 

Gulf of Guinea

The Gulf of Guinea continues to be a particularly high risk region for seafarers, representing 86% of crew taken hostage and nearly 82% of crew kidnappings globally so far in 2019. 

In July, a general cargo vessel was hijacked approximately 120nm SW from Brass, resulting in ten crew kidnapped and held for four weeks. In August, a bulk carrier and a general cargo vessel were boarded within hours of each other at Douala anchorage, Cameroon, resulting in a total of seventeen crew being kidnapped. Within six weeks all kidnapped crew were released.

The IMB PRC says the incidents, however, demonstrate the range of piracy activity in the Gulf of Guinea and that all types of ships are vulnerable to attack. Lagos also recorded 11 incidents in 2019, the highest number for any port.

“Although incidents are down, the Gulf of Guinea continues to be a concern for piracy and armed robbery-related activities with kidnappings of crew members increasing in both scale and frequency,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director, ICC IMB. “It is important that shipmasters and owners continue to report all actual, attempted, and suspected incidents to ensure that an accurate picture of these attacks emerge and  action is taken against these criminals before the incidents further escalate.”

Continued improvement in Indonesia

Meanwhile, Indonesia saw a decline in overall piracy-related incidents, with 20 actual and attempted attacks for the first nine months of 2019. Over the past five years, Indonesia has gradually reduced its share of piracy related incidents. As recent as 2015, Indonesia reported 86 actual and attempted piracy incidents through Q3. Indonesia’s impressive gains can be attributed to continued information sharing between the Indonesian Marine Police and the IMB PRC.

No incidents in Somalia, but threats remain

Meanwhile, Somalia has no piracy-related incidents recorded for the first nine months of 2019. Although no incidents have been reported, Somali pirates continue to possess the capacity to carry out attacks in the Somali basin and wider Indian Ocean. As a result, the IMB PRC advises ship owners to remain cautious when transitting these waters.