Global piracy incidents continue to decline, including Gulf of Guinea

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Another drop in reported piracy incidents – this time for the first quarter of 2023 – does not mean the threat is over, with a call for a continued, robust and co-ordinated regional and international naval presence to deter, prevent and respond to piracy.

The call by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) of the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) Commercial Crime Services comes in the wake of 27 reported piracy incidents in the first three months of the year. This, an IMB statement said, is “a marked decline” from the 36 reported in the same period last year.

In 24 of the 27 cases reported, perpetrators boarded vessels, and two vessels reported attempted incidents while one vessel was hijacked.

“Despite the drop in numbers the threat of violence remains with six crew kidnapped, two taken hostage, two threatened and one assaulted,” IMB Director Michael Howlett said.

On the credit side of the international piracy ledger, the Gulf of Guinea, long a piracy hotspot, continues to report a decreasing number of incidents. “Just” five incidents were reported in the first quarter of 2023, down from eight last year and 16 in 2021.

Despite the improvements, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre calls for coastal response agencies and international navies to maintain efforts in the region, citing a March hijacking west of Pointe Noire, Congo Republic. The product tanker lost all communications for five days and when located by a French naval asset, six crew were reported as kidnapped. This, Howlett said, highlights the continued need for vigilance and swift naval responses when incidents are reported.

“We emphasise the need for a continued, robust and co-ordinated regional and international naval presence – especially considering 85% of international trade is transported via the sea and it is seafarers who need to be safeguarded,” he added.

Thirty percent of 2023 quarter one incidents occurred in the Singapore Straits, with eight recorded cases down from 15 in 2022 quarter one. Although “incidents in this region tend to be cases of petty theft, the threat of violence remains worrisome, with knives sighted and reported in two incidents,” the statement has it.

Thirty-three percent of global incidents in quarter one 2023 were in South America, with Callao anchorage in Peru remaining an area of particular concern. Five reported incidents occurred there. Crew continue to be at risk with two taken hostage and one each assaulted and threatened.