Gulf of Guinea retains world piracy hotspot status


Africa, particularly the Gulf of Guinea, remains the world hotspot for piracy with 43% of all incidents reported in the first quarter of this year coming from the busy shipping waters off the continental west coast.

The International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB’s) latest global piracy report records 38 incidents since the start of 2021 – compared with 47 incidents in the same period last year. In the first three months of 2021, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) reported 33 vessels boarded, two attempted attacks, two vessels fired on and one vessel hijacked.

Despite a drop in reported piracy incidents for quarter one, violence against crew is rising when compared to previous years. Since the start of 2021, 40 crew were kidnapped compared to 22 in the corresponding period last year. One crew member was killed.

The Gulf of Guinea continues to be particularly dangerous for seafarers with 43% of all reported piracy incidents occurring in the region. The region also accounted for all 40 kidnapped crew incidents, as well as the sole crew fatality, according to the IMB.

“Pirates operating in the Gulf of Guinea are well equipped to attack further away from shorelines and are unafraid of violent action against innocent crews. It is critical for seafarers to stay remain cautious and vigilant when transiting Gulf of Guinea waters and report all incidents to regional authorities and the IMB PRC. Improved knowledge sharing and more collaboration between maritime response authorities will reduce the risk to seafarers in the region,” IMB director Michael Howlett said.

The furthest recorded kidnapping was on 11 March 2021 when pirates kidnapped 15 crew from a Maltese flagged chemical tanker 212 nautical miles south of Cotonou, Benin. In another incident a fishing vessel hijacked on 8 February 2021 was used by pirates as a mother vessel to facilitate attacks.

The IMB PRC commends coastal response agencies and independent international navies for actively responding to reported incidents and encourages continued efforts to make Gulf of Guinea waters safer for seafarers.

On the eastern side of the continent only one incident of piracy was reported during the first three months of 2021 around Somalia. A bulk carrier reported a skiff with armed people and a ladder approaching it while underway in the Gulf of Aden. An onboard armed security team fired warning shots which drove the skiff away.

Despite the decline of piracy incidents around Somalia and in neighbouring waters, the IMB PRC encourages vessels to implement BMP5 (best management practices) while transiting these waters as Somali pirates can still attack.

“Seafarers are in many respects the unsung heroes of the global economy. Governments, businesses and maritime response agencies must take appropriate measures to protect lives and crew livelihoods to ensure an uninterrupted free flow of goods along international supply chains,” ICC (International Chamber of Commerce) Secretary General John Denton said.

The Singapore Straits recorded six piracy incidents in quarter one compared to five in the same period last year. The incidents were opportunistic in nature with the IMB PRC warning perpetrators were armed with knives and seafarers should remain vigilant when travelling through the region.

Information sharing co-operation between Indonesian Marine Police and the IMB PRC continues to produce positive results. During the first three months of 2021, only two anchored vessels were reported attacked, compared to five in the same period last year.

There was an upturn in reported piracy incidents in Callao Anchorage, Peru, with five incidents in the first three months of 2021 compared to three the previous period. Container vessels are attack targets while underway or at anchor in Colombian waters. Perpetrators open containers and steal cargoes while vessels are under pilotage, according to the IMB PRC. Masters are encouraged to report incidents in these waters.