Global piracy down, Gulf of Guinea still a concern


Incidents of international piracy and armed robbery are at their lowest level in 27 years, according to International Maritime Bureau (IMB) statistics, with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) specialist facility warning risks to seafarers remain, especially off West Africa.

IMB’s latest global piracy report details 68 worldwide incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships – the lowest since 1994 – down from 98 incidents during the same period last year. In the first six months of 2021, IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) reported 61 vessels boarded, four attempted attacks, two vessels fired on and one hijacked.

The overall decline in reported incidents has not seen a drop in violence against crews with 50 kidnapped, three taken hostage, the same number threatened, two assaulted, one injured and one killed in the first half of the year.

Welcoming reduced reported incidents, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) continues to caution against complacency. Vessels were boarded in 91% of reported incidents, it points out.

Cautious gains in Gulf of Guinea

The Gulf of Guinea continues to be dangerous for seafarers, with 32% of all reported incidents in the region, according to the IMB. It accounted for all 50 kidnapped crew and the single crew fatality in the first half of 2021.

The number of kidnappings recorded in the Gulf of Guinea in the last quarter is the lowest since quarter two of 2019, but pirates continue to target all vessel types throughout the region. The IMB warns fishing vessels were hijacked in the Gulf of Guinea and used as mother ships to target other merchant vessels.

While the IMB welcomes reduced piracy and armed robbery activity in the Gulf of Guinea, the risk to seafarers still remains, said IMB Director Michael Howlett. “By reporting all incidents to regional authorities and IMB PRC, seafarers maintain pressure against pirates. Bringing together maritime response authorities through initiatives – like Nigeria’s Deep Blue Project and Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaboration Forum – will continue and strengthen knowledge sharing channels and reduce risk to seafarers in the region”.

The Singapore Straits recorded 16 incidents in the first six months of 2021, compared to 11 in the same period in 2020. These attacks are considered opportunistic with the IMB warning that in seven incidents perpetrators were armed with knives. In three separate incidents, seafarers were threatened, assaulted or injured.

In comparison to the first half of 2019 and 2020, Callao Anchorage, Peru, experienced a twofold increase in incidents with nine reported in total for 2021. There were four incidents in quarter two 2021 and knives reported in three, according to the latest figures from the IMB. Perpetrators in the region carry out violent attacks with two separate incidents of crew taken hostage and assaulted occurring in the first six months of 2021.

Vessels are advised to take precautionary measures while anchored in Manila Bay, Philippines, as four incidents were reported to IMB for Q2 2021.

“Reporting piracy and armed robbery incidents is the first line of defence against future attacks,” said ICC Secretary General John WH Denton. “Sustained reporting to IMB will enable governments, maritime response agencies and other stakeholders to establish safer waters for seafarers and a smooth flow of goods throughout global supply chains.”