Piracy and armed robbery are on the rise according to the annual piracy report for 2020 compiled by the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
The IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) recorded 195 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships worldwide, in comparison to 162 in 2019. The incidents included three hijacked vessels, 11 vessels fired upon, 20 attempted attacks, and 161 vessels boarded. The rise is attributed to an increase within the Gulf of Guinea as well as increased armed robbery activity in the Singapore Straits.
Globally, 135 crew were kidnapped from their vessels, with the Gulf of Guinea accounting for over 95% of these. A record 130 crew members were kidnapped in 22 separate incidents. Since 2019, the Gulf of Guinea has experienced an unprecedented rise in the number of multiple crew kidnappings. In the last quarter of 2019 alone, the region recorded 39 crew kidnapped in two separate incidents.
These incidents were particularly dangerous as over 80% of attackers were armed with guns, according to the IMB report. All three vessel hijackings and nine of the 11 vessels fired upon related to this region. Crew kidnappings were reported in 25% of vessel attacks in the Gulf of Guinea – more than any other region in the world.
Once kidnapped, crew are removed from the vessel and can be held on shore until their release is negotiated. The furthest crew kidnapping occurred almost 200 nautical miles (NM) from land, with the average kidnapping incident taking place over 60NM from land, the report reveals.
The rise in kidnapping incidents further away from shorelines demonstrates the increasing capabilities of pirates in the Gulf of Guinea.
“The latest statistics confirm the increased capabilities of pirates in the Gulf of region with more and more attacks taking place further from the coast. “This is a worrying trend that can only be resolved through increased information exchange and coordination between vessels and reporting and response agencies in the region,” says Michael Howlett, director of the ICC International Maritime Bureau.
“Despite prompt action by navies in the region, there remains an urgent need to address this crime, which continues to have a direct impact on the safety and security of innocent seafarers.”
The increase in incidents against vessels under way within the Singapore Straits has continued since Q4 2019, with 23 incidents reported for 2020 while armed robbery reports in Indonesia remained consistent, with 26 low-level incidents reported compared to 25 in 2019.