IMB: Gulf of Guinea Attacks Drive Increase in Global Piracy Numbers

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Published Jan 13, 2021 4:41 PM by The Maritime Executive

The rising number of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea drove an increase in worldwide piracy numbers in 2020, according to the International Chamber of Commerce's International Maritime Bureau (IMB). 

In 2020, IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) reported 195 instances of piracy and armed robbery worldwide, up from 162 in 2019. The rise was attributable to an increase of piracy and armed robbery reported within the Gulf of Guinea, as well as increased armed robbery activity in the Singapore Straits.

The trend is particularly concerning because the Gulf of Guinea is known as the global epicenter of the most damaging form of piracy - the kidnapping of crewmembers for ransom. 95 percent of all maritime kidnapping incidents occurred in the region last year, affecting 130 crewmembers in 22 separate attacks. One record-setting kidnapping attack occurred almost 200 nautical miles from land, and the average kidnapping occurred within about 60 nm offshore, according to IMB.

Only five crewmembers were kidnapped in all other parts of the world combined last year. 

The Gulf of Guinea incidents also come with heightened risk because about 80 percent of the attackers are equipped with firearms, according to IMB. All three of the vessel hijackings and nine out of the 11 incidents in which vessels came under fire occurred in this region. 

Given the hazard to crewmembers, IMB recommends that vessels keep at least 250 nm away from the coast at all times in this region, at least until a vessel can transit directly to a safe berth or anchorage. 

“The latest statistics confirm the increased capabilities of pirates in the Gulf of Guinea 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, reporting and response agencies in the Gulf of Guinea Region. 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,” said Michael Howlett, Director of the ICC International Maritime Bureau.