Just seven piracy incidents were recorded in the Gulf of Guinea, widely seen as the world’s piracy hotspot, in the first quarter of this year.
This is “welcome” said the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB), adding worldwide nearly half of the 37 reported incidents to date this year were in south-east Asian waters.
“Sustained efforts are however needed to ensure the continued safety of seafarers in the West African region that remains dangerous, as evidenced by the hijack of a product tanker off the coast of Ivory Coast on 24 January, during which all 17 crew were taken hostage. Reports of armed robberies have also been received within the anchorage waters of Angola and Ghana,” the latest IMB statement has it.
“Worldwide, this is the first quarter since 2010 where no crew kidnappings have been reported, although violence against and the threat to crews continue with 23 crew taken hostage and a further four crew threatened.”
On the drop in piracy incidents off West Africa, particularly the Gulf of Guinea, the IMB notes no reported crew kidnappings in the first quarters thanks to the efforts of maritime authorities in the region.
“This is a welcome change compared to 40 crew kidnappings in the same period in 2021. The efforts of regional and international navies also resulted in a reduction of reported incidents from 16 in the first quarter of 2021 to seven over the same period in 2022. The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre urges coastal response agencies and international navies to continue efforts to ensure piracy is permanently addressed in these risky waters.
“The threat to innocent seafarers remains and is best exemplified with a recent attack where a Panamax sized bulk carrier was boarded by pirates 260 nautical miles off Ghana on 3 April. This illustrates that despite a decrease in reported incidents the threat of Gulf of Guinea piracy and crew kidnappings remains,” the statement reads.
Speedy reaction by the PRC saw regional maritime authorities and navies with assets deployed in the area respond. An Italian Navy warship with on board helicopter reacted saving the crew and ensuring the carrier could proceed to a safe port under escort.
Although no incidents were reported there since the start of the year, the threat of piracy still exists in the waters off the southern Red Sea and in the Gulf of Aden, which include the Yemeni and Somali coasts. The opportunity for incidents is reduced but it must be remembered Somali pirates continue to possess the capability and capacity to carry out incidents and merchant ships are advised to adhere the latest Best Management Practices recommendations while transiting these waters, the IMB said.