IMB concerned about first ship hijacking off Somalia in six years

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The just released 2023 International Maritime Bureau (IMB) piracy report notes a slight increase in incidents and expresses concern over the first successful hijacking off Somalia since 2017.

The 14 December boarding and hijacking of the Maltese-flagged merchant vessel Ruen off Somalia happened 700 nautical miles east of Bosaso, the International Chamber of Commerce’s IMB reported. Of further concern is the subsequent hijacking of two dhows – vessels with potential use as mother ships for further attacks.

On the just ended calendar year, the IMB has it 120 incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported. This is five more than in 2022. Other incidents were 105 vessels boarded, nine attempted attacks, four hijackings and two vessels fired on.

“While the number of reported incidents increased slightly, the IMB urges caution for crew safety as the number of crew taken hostage and kidnapped increased from 41 to 73 and from two to 14 in 2022 and 2023 respectively. A further 10 crew were threatened, four injured and one assaulted in 2023.”

The Gulf of Guinea, acknowledged as the international piracy and related crimes hotspot, had 23 reported incidents last year, up by four from 2022. The West African body of water saw three of the four reported ship hijackings, all 14 crew kidnappings, 75% of reported crew hostages and two injured crew in 2023. These earned the Gulf of Guinea the dubious IMB sobriquet of “continuing to be dangerous waters for seafarers”.

The Singapore Straits remain an area of concern due to the high number of incidents. While considered low level opportunistic crimes, 95% of reported incidents were successful, with 37 reported incidents overall in 2023 compared to 38 in 2022. Crew continue to be harmed with nine taken hostage and two threatened. Guns were reported in three recorded incidents and knives in 15.

“We are concerned about late and under reporting by vessels. The IMB encourages timely reporting of all incidents as it contributes to a more accurate understanding of risk,” IMB Director Michael Howlett said.

One crew member was injured and required medical attention after a bulk carrier was boarded in the Malacca Straits in October 2023. The last reported incident of crew injured by pirates in the area was in 2015.

A year-on-year increase in reported incidents was observed in the Indonesian archipelago, up from 10 in 2022 to 18 in 2023. Weapons were reported in 50% of the incidents. Seven crew were threatened and two taken hostage in 2023.

In South America, 14 incidents were reported from vessels at Callao anchorage in Peru. Seven crew were taken hostage and one each assaulted and threatened. Guns and knives were reported in nine incidents. Other ports affected in South America were Macapa anchorage in Brazil and Cartagena and Puerto Bolivar anchorages in Colombia.