Piracy incidents at a 28-year low


Proof that efforts to combat piracy across the world’s oceans are working comes from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which reports the first half of 2022 saw the lowest number of incidents reported in 28 years.

Fifty-eight incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships is the lowest number since 1994 and down from the 68 incidents reported in the first six months of last year.

Information on 55 vessels boarded, two attempted attacks and a lone vessel hijacking were received by the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC).

Welcoming the statistics, IMB director Michael Howlett said it was good for the shipping industry and seafarers as well as being “positive for trade which promotes economic growth”.  The drop in piracy incidents should, however, not lead to any lowering of anti-piracy measures by the international shipping community.

“Areas of risk shift and governments and responding authorities are urged to continue patrolling, in itself a deterrent,” he said, adding the reduction in reported incidents was “encouraging” but no reason for complacency. Howlett urged ships’ companies to always be alert and implement IMB Best Management Practices (BMPs) as a priority.

Despite no crew kidnappings reported in 55 vessels boarded, violence and threats to ships’ companies continues, with 23 crew taken hostage and a further five threatened.

The Gulf of Guinea on Africa’s upper west coast has long been in the lead of reported piracy incidents worldwide, with 12 incidents in the first six months of the year, leading Howlett to speak of “cautious gains”.

“Of the 58 incidents, 12 were reported in the Gulf of Guinea with ten defined as armed robberies and the remaining two as piracy. In early April, a Panamax bulk carrier was attacked and boarded by pirates 260 nautical miles off Ghana. This shows despite a decrease in reported incidents, the threat of Gulf of Guinea piracy and crew kidnappings remains,” an IMB statement has it.

The April Panamax incident, reported to the IMB PRC, resulted in an immediate alert as well as liaison with regional authorities and international warships in the Gulf of Guinea requesting assistance. An Italian Navy platform with an embedded maritime helicopter responded and “intervened instantly”, keeping crew and ship safe and able to proceed under escort.

“The prompt and positive actions of the Italian Navy which undoubtedly resulted in the crew and ship being saved are commended. The IMB PRC urges coastal response agencies and independent international navies to continue with efforts to ensure this crime is permanently addressed in these waters which account for 74% of crew taken hostage globally,” according to the statement.

On the eastern side of the African continent, no incidents were reported in the Gulf of Aden in 2022’s first half, with Howlett cautioning the threat of piracy “still exists in the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden including the Yemeni and Somali coasts”.

“Somali pirates retain the capability and capacity to carry out incidents and all merchant ships are advised to adhere to recommendations in the latest BMPs [Best Management Practices] while transiting these waters.”

Another perennial piracy hotpot is the Singapore Straits where “vessels continue to be targeted and boarded by local perpetrators” accounting for more than a quarter of incidents so far this year. Perpetrators boarded vessels in all 16 incidents reported.

Outside the Singapore Straits, the Indonesian archipelago saw a slight increase in reported incidents for the first time since 2018, with seven incidents reported compared to five over the same period last year. Five vessels were boarded at anchor and one each while at berth and steaming. Weapons were reported in at least three incidents with a crew member threatened.