The Gulf of Guinea has retained its infamous title as the world piracy hotspot, accounting for nearly half (43%) of all reported piracy incidents in the first three months of 2021, according to the latest figures from the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
IMB’s latest global piracy report records 38 incidents since the start of 2021 – compared with 47 incidents during 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 upon, and one hijacked.
Despite a drop in the number of reported incidents for Q1 2021, violence against crew is on the rise in comparison to previous years. Since the start of 2021, 40 crew have been kidnapped compared to 22 in Q1 2020. A crew member was also killed in Q1 2021.
The Gulf of Guinea continues to be particularly dangerous for seafarers, with 43% of all reported piracy incidents occurring in the region. In addition, the region accounted for all 40 kidnapped crew incidents, as well as the sole crew fatality, according to the IMB.
“Pirates operating within the Gulf of Guinea are well-equipped to attack further away from shorelines and are unafraid to take violent action against innocent crews,” warns IMB director, Michael Howlett. “It’s critical that seafarers remain cautious and vigilant when travelling in nearby waters and report all incidents to the regional authorities and the IMB PRC. Only improved knowledge-sharing channels and increased collaboration between maritime response authorities will reduce the risk to seafarers in the region.”
The furthest recorded kidnapping occurred on March 11 when pirates kidnapped 15 crew from a Maltese-flagged chemical tanker, 212nm south of Cotonou, Benin. In another incident, a fishing vessel hijacked on February 8 was used by pirates as a mother vessel to facilitate other attacks.
During the first three months of 2021, there was only one incident of reported piracy around Somalia, the Singapore Straits recorded six piracy incidents in Q1 2021 compared to five during the same period last year, and Indonesia only two anchored vessels were reported, in comparison to five in the same period last year.
In the Americas there has been an uptick of reported piracy incidents in Callao Anchorage, Peru with five incidents occurring in the first three months of the year compared to just three in Q1 2020. Meanwhile, container vessels are the target of attacks while under way or at anchor in Colombian waters. Perpetrators have been known to open containers and steal cargoes even while vessels are under pilotage, according to the IMB PRC.