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IMB Calls for Vigilance While Highlighting Drop in Piracy in 2022

drop in global piracy
IMB calls for vigilance citing the success due to efforts by navies and others to reduce piracy (EU-NAVFORCE file photo)

Published Jan 12, 2023 6:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

The ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) is once again highlighting the continuing decline in global piracy incidents against vessels while also calling for sustained efforts to maintain the progress seen in 2022. They are reporting that overall, the volume of incidents declined as well as a reduction of severity with fewer armed incidents, kidnappings, or hijackings. They are however highlighting that five areas, and in particular the waters around Singapore, are accounting for two-thirds of all the incidents reported last year.

“The IMB calls for efforts to be sustained worldwide as maritime piracy and armed robbery attacks reached their lowest recorded level in almost three decades,” the group said in announcing the summary of 2022 incidents. 

Michael Howlett, IMB Director said, “The IMB applauds the prompt and decisive actions of the international navies and regional authorities in the Gulf of Guinea which have positively contributed to the drop in reported incidents and ensuring continued safety to crews and trade.” He pointed out that it illustrates both the success as well as the need to maintain security efforts in the region and elsewhere.

Worldwide, the IMB said that it received reports for just 115 incidents in 2022, including piracy and armed robbery against ships. That compared with a total of 132 incidents in 2021 and further illustrating the progress their data shows that the level of incidents was near 200 per year in both 2020 and 2018.

While the rate of incidents has fallen, they, however, noted that 95 percent of the vessels attacked in 2022 had been boarded. They said there were 107 vessels boarded during the year with five additional attempts. Only two vessels were reported hijacked and only one was fired upon. The incidents were nearly evenly split between vessels either underway or at anchor while vessels at berth were far less likely to be attacked.

Geographically, however, the IMB points out that the waters of Southeast Asia and in particular the Singapore Straits are both the most dangerous and the area where the number of incidents was still on the rise. In five years, the number of reported incidents in the Singapore Straits skyrocketed from just three in 2018 to 38 in 2022. All of the vessels had been underway in the Straits last year when they were boarded.

Incidents in the Singapore Straits are considered to be opportunistic, low-level crimes. The IMB however highlights that they are armed robberies with two crews threatened and four others were taken hostage for the duration of the incident. In only three of the incidents, however, was a gun reported, and often the boarders leave when they are discovered.

While they consider the Singapore Straits the most dangerous with 38 incidents, they point out that there were also 10 reports in Indonesia and 12 in Peru. Adding in Bangladesh and Ghana, these five locations accounted for 64 percent of the total incidents in 2022.

The organization highlights the progress in the Gulf of Guinea where the incidents fell from 82 in 2018 and 84 in 2020 to 19 in 2022. Using the region to highlight its message of the need for sustained efforts to combat these crimes, the IMB pointed out that there were two incidents in the fourth quarter of 2022 in the Gulf of Guinea. In one instance, a Ro-Ro was commandeered with the crew taken hostage until they could reach the citadel and the authorities in Sierra Leone recaptured the vessel. They also highlighted reports of shots fired at a Suezmax tanker near Equatorial Guinea.