47 worldwide piracy incidents recorded in 1Q2020

A group of suspected pirates are apprehended by EU NAVFOR elements in the Gulf of Guinea. (Photo: UN.org)

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in its latest global piracy report that 47 pirate attacks were recorded in the first three months of 2020, up from 38 in the same period last year.

The 47 attacks also included 37 different ships that were boarded in the first quarter of 2020.

The Gulf of Guinea remains the world’s piracy hotspot with 17 crew kidnapped in three incidents in these waters, at distances of between 45 and 75 nautical miles from the coast.

The global piracy report shows zero hijackings in the last two quarters of 2019 and no incidents around Somalia.

Gulf of Guinea kidnappings persist

The IMB’s 24-hour Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) recorded 21 attacks in the Gulf of Guinea in 1Q2020. Of these, 12 were on vessels underway at an average of 70 nautical miles off the coast.

All vessel types are at risk and the perpetrators are usually armed. They approach in speedboats, boarding ships in order to steal stores or cargo and abduct crewmembers to demand a ransom.

While 10 vessels were fired upon worldwide for the whole of 2019, four already reported being fired at within the Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the first quarter of 2020. This includes a container ship underway around 130 nautical miles southwest of Brass.

In another incident around 102 nautical miles northwest of Sao Tome Island, another containership was boarded by pirates. The crew retreated into the citadel and raised the alarm.

On receiving the alert, the IMB PRC liaised with regional authorities and the vessel operator until the vessel was safe and the crew had emerged from the citadel.

Indonesia: dialogue pays dividends

Strategic deployment of Indonesian Marine Police (IMP) patrol vessels has resulted in a continued decline in attacks on ships in most Indonesian anchorages and waterways – thanks to positive cooperation between the IMB PRC and the IMP.

In 1Q2020, just five anchored vessels were reported boarded. These are often low-level armed robbery attacks.

The IMB PRC is monitoring the situation and continues to liaise with the IMP as well as other local and regional authorities.

Singapore Straits

Five ships were boarded while underway in the Singapore Straits – where no attacks were reported in 1Q2019. These low level armed robbery attacks are a distraction to crews navigating in congested waters.

In one incident the crew managed to lock their assailants in the engine room, which enabled their later arrest by Indonesian and Singaporean authorities.


Other violence against seafarers includes the kidnapping of five crew (Three others had also been kidnapped but were later released.) for ransom in an attack on a fishing vessel off Sabah, Malaysia in January 2020.

In March, at Macapa Anchorage, Brazil, a watchman was confronted while on duty and held temporarily by a group of robbers.

Meanwhile, in the anchorage of Callao, Peru, three crew were apprehended by nine robbers who boarded their vessel to steal ship’s stores. Two crew were injured during the incident.

Callao recorded five incidents in the last quarter of 2019 and three this quarter.

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