Global piracy falls to lowest level in 27 years

Pirates attack tanker off West Africa


Piracy and armed robbery at sea fell to the lowest level in 27 years in the first half of 2021, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) piracy reporting centre has said.

The IMB on Tuesday released its latest global piracy report detailing 68 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the first six months of 2021, the lowest total since 1994 and down from 98 incidents during the same period last year.

While encouraging, the IMB urged caution against complacency, especially in the Gulf of Guinea, which continues to pose the highest risk to seafarers.

IMB piracy reporting centre reported 61 vessels boarded, four attempted attacks, two vessels fired upon and one vessel hijacked. Despite an overall decline in reported incidents, violence against crews continued with 50 crew kidnapped, two assaulted, one injured and one killed throughout the first half of 2021.

The Gulf of Guinea continues to be particularly dangerous for seafarers with 32% of all reported incidents taking place in the region, according to IMB. The region accounted for all 50 kidnapped crew and the single crew fatality recorded by IMB Piracy Reporting Centre during the first half of 2021.

The number of kidnappings recorded in the Gulf of Guinea in the second quarter is the lowest since Q2 2019, but pirates continue to target all vessel types throughout the region. IMB warned that fishing vessels have been hijacked and later used as mother ships to target other merchant vessels.

In early June, a bulk carrier was approached by a skiff with six pirates while transitioning through the region at around 210nm off the coast of Lagos.

“Whilst IMB welcomes reduced piracy and armed robbery activity in the Gulf of Guinea, the risk to seafarers still remains,” said IMB Director Michael Howlett. “By reporting all incidents to the Regional Authorities and IMB PRC, seafarers can maintain pressure against pirates. Bringing together maritime response authorities through initiatives – like Nigeria’s Deep Blue Project and Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaboration Forum – will continue and strengthen knowledge sharing channels and reduce risk to seafarers in the region.”

The Singapore Straits recorded 16 incidents in the first six months of 2021, compared to 11 during the same period in 2020. The IMB noted that these attacks appear to be opportunistic in nature, but the organization warns that in seven incidents the perpetrators were armed with knives. In three separate incidents, seafarers were reported to have been either threatened, assaulted or injured.

At the Callao Anchorage in Peru, shipping has seen a two-fold increase in the number of incidents compared to the last two years, with nine incidents reported in total for 2021. There were four incidents in Q2 2021 and knives reported in three cases. The IMB says perpetrators in the region possess the capacity to carry out violent attacks with two separate incidents of crew being taken hostage and assaulted so far in 2021.

Vessels are also advised to take precautionary measures while anchored in Manila Bay, Philippines, as four incidents were reported to IMB for Q2 2021.

“Reporting piracy and armed robbery incidents is the first line of defence against future attacks,” said ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO. “Sustained reporting to IMB will enable governments, maritime response agencies and other stakeholders to establish safer waters for our seafarers and smooth flow of goods throughout global supply chains.”

The IMB continues to advise ships to maintain anti-piracy watches while transiting areas of high risk and report all piracy and armed robbery incidents, including suspicious movements of boats and skiffs, to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.