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IMB: Global Piracy Remains at Lowest Level in Decades

decline in piracy incidents
IMB is calling on littoral states to maintain efforts to prevent a resurgence in piracy (file photo)

Published Oct 12, 2022 6:41 PM by The Maritime Executive

Global piracy and armed robbery incidents in the maritime industry are at their lowest level in decades continuing patterns that emerged over the past two years. In its report for the first nine months of 2022, the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB), reports the lowest recorded figure in three decades. The organization, which tracks piracy and coordinates the reporting of incidents to the authorities, however cautions against complacency calling for regional and international players to sustain their efforts to prevent piracy incidents.

ICC IMB’s latest global quarterly piracy report details 90 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the first nine months of 2022, which they said reached their lowest levels since 1992. Reported incidents were down a further seven percent versus the first nine months of 2021 when the IMB received a total of 97 reports from ships. 

However, highlighting the need for further action, the number of vessels boarded remained the same at 85 this year versus last year. In 2022, the pirates were successful in gaining access to the vessels in 95 percent of the reported incidents. The number of crew taken hostage increased to 27 this year versus eight in 2021, but in 2021 an additional crew 51 crewmembers were also taken hostage versus none this year.

The danger for crew was nearly equal between ships at anchor (40 incidents) versus those underway (37 incidents). The fewest reports (13) came from berthed vessels. Bulkers are the most vulnerable type of vessel suffered nearly half of the reported attacks (40) this year. Tankers reported the second greatest number of attacks (23) with the least number of reports (10) on containerships.

Local initiatives combined with an increased international presence contributed to a continuing decline of reports from the Gulf of Guinea expanding on a two-year trend in the region. The IMB reports a significant decline in the number of reported incidents in the region off west Africa, which had according to the organization “emerged as the world’s biggest piracy hotspot in recent years.” The IMB has received just 13 reports from the Gulf of Guinea so far this year, compared to 27 in 2021 and 46 in 2020. 

“We commend the efforts of the coastal authorities of the Gulf of Guinea. While the decline is welcome, sustained and continued efforts of the coastal authorities and the presence of the international navies remain essential to safeguard seafarers and long-term regional and international shipping and trade,” said Michael Howlett, IMB Director said.

While the Gulf of Guinea has seen a continuing decline in reports, incidents in the Singapore Straits are increasing, up by nearly 50 percent so far in 2022 versus last year. The IMB data shows that 31 vessels were boarded up from 21 last year. Further, the vessels, including several large vessels and tankers, were underway when they were boarded. In at least 16 incidents the crew reported that the boarders had weapons but, in most cases, the boarders stole ship stores and property and departed when they were discovered.

“While these are so far considered low-level opportunistic crimes, with no crew kidnappings or vessel hijackings, littoral states are requested to increase patrols in what is a strategically important waterway for the shipping industry and for global trade,” said Howlett. They noted that they also believe there is a degree of underreporting as well as late reporting of incidents from these waters. 

In other regions, the IMB reports a similar overall decline in attacks against vessels. At the anchorage in Callao, Peru incident reports were down by nearly half. They however highlighted five attacks at the Macapa Anchorage in Brazil, including one on August 30 where six security and duty crew were assaulted and tied up aboard a bulk carrier. The IMB notes that these incidents highlight the need for continued vigilance by crews and no room for complacency by the local authorities.