International Maritime Bureau calls for sustained efforts as global piracy incidents hit lowest levels in decades

Ships in the Singapore Strait (Photo: International Register of Shipping)

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) calls for efforts to be sustained worldwide as maritime piracy and armed robbery attacks reached their lowest recorded level in almost three decades.

The IMB’s annual report recorded 115 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in 2022 – compared to 132 in 2021 – with half of them occurring in Southeast Asian waters, particularly in the Singapore Straits, where incidents continue to rise.

Perpetrators were successful in gaining access to vessels in 95 per cent of the reported incidents broken down as 107 vessels were boarded, two vessels were hijacked, five attempted attacks occurred, and one vessel was fired upon. In many cases, vessels were either anchored or steaming when boarded, with nearly all the incidents occurring during the hours of darkness.

Caution urged in the Gulf of Guinea

The continued and much needed reduction is attributed to an overall decrease of piratical activity in the highly risky waters of the Gulf of Guinea – down from 35 incidents in 2021 to 19 in 2022. However, sustained efforts are needed to ensure the continued safety of seafarers in the Gulf of Guinea region, which remains dangerous as evidenced by two incidents in the last quarter of 2022.

In mid-November, a Ro-Ro vessel was commandeered by pirates, around 28 nautical miles south-west of Turtle Islands, 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 the Sierra Leone authorities boarded the vessel.

In mid-December, a Suezmax tanker was also fired upon, 87 nautical miles north-west of Bata, Equatorial Guinea.

Incidents on the rise in the Singapore Straits

A third of all incidents reported globally in 2022 have been 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.

The IMB said that while these are considered low level opportunistic crimes and 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.

The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre also 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.

Threat subsists in South America

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 per cent decrease compared to 2021.

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