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MARITIME SECURITY: Global Piracy At Three Decade Low


Jan 17, 2023

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) wants maritime security efforts sustained worldwide as maritime piracy and armed robbery attacks dropped to the lowest recorded levels in almost three decades.

The ICC IMB annual report recorded 115 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in 2022 – compared to 132 in 2021 – with half in south-east Asian waters, particularly the Singapore Straits, where incidents continue to rise.

Perpetrators, the report has it, were successful in gaining access to vessels in 95% of reported incidents. This is broken down into 107 vessels boarded, two hijacked, five attempted attacks and one vessel fired on. In “many cases” vessels were either anchored or steaming when boarded, with nearly all incidents occurring during the hours of darkness.

The continued and much needed reduction is attributed to an overall decrease of pirate activity in the highly risky waters of the Gulf of Guinea – down from 35 incidents in 2021 to 19 in 2022.

Sustained efforts are still needed to ensure continued safety of seafarers in the Gulf of Guinea region, which remains dangerous as evidenced by two incidents in the last quarter of 2022, the IMB said.

In mid-November a Ro-Ro vessel was commandeered by pirates, 28 nautical miles south-west of Turtle Islands, Sierra Leone. All crew were taken hostage and the pirates attempted to navigate through shallow waters resulting in the vessel running aground. The crew freed themselves and took refuge in the citadel until Sierra Leone authorities boarded the vessel.

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

“The IMB applauds prompt and decisive actions of international navies and regional authorities in the Gulf of Guinea which positively contributed to the drop in reported incidents and ensured continued safety for crews and trade. The Ro-Ro and tanker incidents are cause for concern and show efforts to enhance maritime security in the region must be sustained,” according to IMB Director Michael Howlett.

Masters are again strongly encouraged to follow industry Best Management Practice recommendations in these waters.

A third of all incidents reported globally in 2022 were in the Singapore Straits, with underway vessels successfully boarded in all 38 incidents. The majority of vessels boarded were over 50 000 DWT (dead weight tonnage), including six laden vessels over 150 000 DWT. They are considered low level opportunistic crimes and fall under the definition of armed robbery, but crews continue to be at risk.

In 38 reported incidents, two crew were threatened and four were taken hostage for the duration of the incident. It was also reported that in at least three incidents a gun was used to threaten the crew.

“We commend local authorities for investigating almost all reported incidents. Being one of the most crucial and busy waterways for trade, these incidents continue to cause concern as they not only have an impact on crew safety but also potential navigational and environmental consequences.” Howlett said.

The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre believes there is a degree of under- as well as late reporting of incidents from these waters and encourages Masters to report incidents as speedily as possible enabling local authorities to identify, investigate and apprehend perpetrators.

Incidents reported in the Indonesian archipelago remain relatively low thanks to the continued efforts of the Indonesian Marine Police.

Despite a noticeable decrease in reported incidents in Central and South American waters, ports in Brazil, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico and Haiti continue to be affected by 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.

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