Celebrating a decline in piracy incidents

But crews should still be vigilant to the risk of attacks in hotspots

By Cyrus Mody

The International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC) was founded at a time when seafarers had few options for reporting incidents and it remains a single point of contact for reporting all crimes of maritime piracy and armed robbery, 24 hours a day. Since 1991, the prompt forwarding of reports, liaison with response agencies, broadcasts to shipping via GMDSS Safety Net Services, and email alerts to CSOs – all provided cost-free – have helped initiate a response against piracy and armed robbery globally.

As evidenced by the establishment of multiple regional co-operation, reporting and response mechanisms, its reports have over time increased awareness, resulting in the allocation of adequate resources to make waters safer.

Over the years, the IMB PRC has assisted hundreds of vessels and thousands of seafarers and fishers by relaying their calls for assistance to the local Coast Guard or Navy.

The IMB’s latest global piracy report details 90 incidents in the first nine months of 2022, the lowest recorded figure in three decades. Perpetrators were successful in gaining access to the vessels in 95% of reported incidents which are broken down as 85 vessels boarded, four attempted attacks, and one vessel hijacked. In many of the cases, vessels were either at anchor or steaming when boarded, with nearly all the incidents occurring during the hours of darkness.

Threats remain

Although this is the lowest number of reports in decades, violence to crew continues, with 27 crew taken hostage, six assaulted and five threatened. The risk to crew, however petty or opportunistic the incident, remains real.

Thirteen incidents have been reported in the Gulf of Guinea region – compared to 27 over the same period of 2021 – signalling a positive and significant decline in the region off west Africa which emerged as the world’s biggest piracy hotspot in recent years.

The efforts of the coastal authorities of the Gulf of Guinea are commended. While the decline is welcome, sustained and continued efforts of the coastal authorities and the presence of international navies remain essential to safeguarding seafarers and long-term regional and international shipping and trade. There is no room for complacency.

Incidents in the Singapore Straits continue to increase with 31 reports in the first nine months of 2022, compared with 21 in the same period last year. Vessels underway, including several large vessels and tankers, were boarded in all 31 reports and in most cases ship stores or properties stolen. Crews continue to be at risk with weapons reported in at least 16 incidents, including some involving very large bulk carriers and tankers. While these incidents are considered to be 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.

Cyrus Mody is deputy director of the ICC International Maritime Bureau. All Masters are encouraged to report in as timely a manner as possible all incidents occurring on board their vessels. Please contact the 24/7 IMB PRC on +60 3 2078 5763/ +60 3 2031 0287 / +60 3 2031 3106; 24/7 hrs anti-piracy helpline: +60 3 2031 0014; WhatsApp/Telegram: +60 11 2659 3057, photograph or video submission encouraged; Fax: +60 3 2078 5769; general email: [email protected]/ [email protected].