Gulf of Guinea piracy on the up

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There’s concern about an increase in piracy in Gulf of Guinea waters off Africa’s west coast with the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) calling for “continued, robust regional and international naval presences as a deterrent”.

Sixty-five piracy and armed robbery incidents against ships were recorded globally in the first half of 2023, up from 58 incidents for the same period in 2022.

In the 65 incidents, 57 vessels were boarded, four had attempted attacks, two were hijacked and two were fired on. Perpetrators successfully boarded 90% of targeted vessels. Violence toward crew continues with 36 taken hostage, 14 kidnapped, three threatened, two injured and one assaulted, the IMB, a specialised division of the International Chamber of Commerce, said via director Michael Howlett.

“The surge in reported incidents including hostage situations and crew kidnappings in Gulf of Guinea waters is concerning. The IMB calls for continued, robust regional and international naval presences” to deter maritime criminal actions.

The Gulf of Guinea witnessed a concerning surge in maritime incidents between Q1 and Q2 of 2023, with five incidents in the first quarter and nine in the second quarter, an IMB statement said. Of these, 12 were classified as armed robberies and two as piracy, predominantly targeting anchored vessels.

Fourteen crew members were kidnapped, with eight taken from vessels anchored in territorial waters. In two separate hijackings, 31 crew members were held hostage, communication and navigation equipment was destroyed and partial cargoes stolen. One incident involved abduction of six crew members.

The IMB warned the rise of incidents and violence on crew highlights the need for measures to address seafarer safety and security.

“We again call on Gulf of Guinea regional authorities and the international community to refocus attention on the region, establish long term, sustainable solutions that effectively address these crimes and protect the seafaring and fishing communities,” Howlett said.

Further east in the Singapore Straits, IMB reports a 25% increase in targeting and boarding of “often large vessels” transiting congested Straits waters compared to the first six months of 2022. Howlett asks littoral states to allocate the required resources to address these crimes as crew members continue to be at risk with weapons reported in at least eight incidents.

The Indonesian archipelagic region showed a sustained decrease in reported incidents compared to years preceding 2020, with seven incidents reported, involving anchored or berthed vessels. Crew members remain at risk with instances of threats and knives reported.

In South and Central American ports, which accounted for 14% of global incidents, there were 13 reported incidents, including attempted boardings, hostage situations, crew assaults and threats at Callao Anchorage in Peru, Colombia, Macapa Anchorage in Brazil, and Panama.