Downward trend in piracy continues in the Gulf of Guinea

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Piracy appears to be on the decline with reported incidents in the Gulf of Guinea – long accepted as the world’s piracy hotspot – substantially down in the latest quarterly International Maritime Bureau (IMB) report.

The London based bureau, a specialised division of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), says in its third quarter report for the current year of  90 piracy and armed robbery incidents 13 were in the Gulf of Guinea. This is more than half the 27 reported in the third quarter of 2021 and is seen as “a positive and significant decline” in reported incidents off West Africa.

Commending and welcoming the efforts of coastal authorities in the Gulf of Guinea, IMB director Michael Howlett added “sustained and continued efforts of coastal authorities and the presence of the international navies remain essential to safeguard seafarers and long-term regional and international shipping and trade”.

“There is no room for complacency,” he stressed.

The IMB third quarter report is the second in a row to show lowest levels of piracy and armed robbery at sea incidents in three decades.

Perpetrators successfully gained access to vessels in 95% of reported incidents. These are broken down into 85 vessels boarded, four attempted attacks and one vessel hijacked. In many cases vessels were either at anchor or steaming when boarded, with almost all the incidents occurring during the hours of darkness.

Though these are among the lowest reports in decades, violence to crew continues with 27 crew taken hostage, six assaulted and five threatened. “Risk to crews, however petty or opportunistic the incident, remains real,” an IMB statement noted.

Incidents in the Singapore Straits, by contrast to the Gulf of Guinea, continue to increase with 31 reports in the first nine months of 2022 compared to 21 in the same period last year. Vessels underway, including large vessels and tankers, were boarded in all 31 incidents and in most cases, ship stores or properties were stolen. Crews continued to be at risk with weapons reported in 16 incidents, including some involving very large bulk carriers and tankers.

“While these are considered low level opportunistic crimes, with no crew kidnappings or vessel hijackings, littoral states are requested to increase patrols in what is a strategically important waterway for shipping and global trade,” Howlett said.

In the south Americas, the number of reports from Peru’s Callao Anchorage dropped from 15 in the first nine months of 2021 to eight this year. Five incidents were reported at Brazil’s Macapa Anchorage including one where six security and duty crew were assaulted and tied up on an anchored bulk carrier.

Howlett said the low number of reported incidents should not deter regional and international stakeholders, from shipping companies through to government law enforcement and navies, from maintaining their anti-piracy efforts.