Maritime piracy and armed robbery attacks reached the lowest recorded level since 1994, the annual piracy report of the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB), reveals.
n 2021, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre received 132 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships. Incidents include 115 vessels boarded, 11 attempted attacks, five vessels fired upon and one vessel hijacked.
Gulf of Guinea remains hotspot
The increased presence of international naval vessels and cooperation with regional authorities has had a positive impact, with a prime example the actions of the Royal Danish Navy in neutralising a suspected pirate action group in late November.
IMB attributes the overall reduction in reported incidents in 2021 to a decline of activity reported within the Gulf of Guinea region, which has seen a decrease from 81 reported incidents in 2020 to 34 in 2021.
However, while kidnappings at sea dropped 55% in 2021, the Gulf of Guinea continues to account for all kidnapping incidents globally, with 57 crew taken in seven separate incidents.
The IMB commends the robust actions of the international navies and regional authorities in the Gulf of Guinea which appears to have positively contributed to the drop in reported incidents and ensuring continued safety to crews and trade
IMB Director Michael Howlett said, adding however that the coastal states of the Gulf of Guinea must increase their collaboration and physical presence in their waters “to ensure a long term and sustainable solution to address the crime of piracy and armed robbery in the region.”
Attacks on the rise in the Singapore Straits
Thirty-five incidents against vessels navigating the Singapore Straits were reported to the Piracy Reporting Centre in 2021, marking a 50% increase from 2020 and the highest number of reported incidents since 1992.
Vessels were boarded in 33 of the 35 incidents, considered mostly to be opportunistic thefts. Nevertheless, two crew were injured in two separate cases. Knives were also reported in 13 incidents and guns in a further two.
The continued efforts of the Indonesian Marine Police are credited for maintaining reduced levels of incidents in the Indonesian Archipelagic, reports received in 2021 were down to nine from 26 in 2020 and the lowest since 1993. Of the reported incidents four were off Jakarta and knives were reported in at least five, in which one crew was threatened.
Two perpetrators killed in the Caribbean
In December, at Port au Prince, Haiti, four robbers disguised as fishermen and armed with guns and knives boarded a bulk carrier and threatened the duty crew. The locally appointed armed guards exchanged fire resulting in two perpetrators being killed.
Moreover, South American ports in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, and ports in Mexico and Haiti continue to be affected by incidents of armed robbery at sea.
In fact, thirty-six incidents were reported in 2021 compared to 30 in 2020, with six crew threatened, four taken hostage and two assaulted.
Thirty-one vessels were boarded in total, the majority at anchor, while figures for the region include three reported attempted boardings and two vessels being fired upon.
Incidents in the Peruvian anchorage of Callao have more than doubled from eight in 2020 to 18 in 2021.
Continued improvements off Somalia
While the direct threat of attacks from Somali based pirates appears to have decreased, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre continues to encourage vigilance among shipmasters, particularly when transiting close to the Somali coast.