The number of piracy and armed robbery incidents in the first six months of 2021 has dropped to the lowest level since 1994. IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre has recorded 68 occurrences down from 98 during the same period last year. While a welcome development, the IMB PRC stresses the risk to seafarers remains.

In the first six months of 2021, IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) reported 61 vessels boarded, four attempted attacks, two vessels fired upon and one vessel hijacked. Despite the overall decline in reported incidents, violence against crews has continued with fifty crew kidnapped, three each threatened and taken hostage, two assaulted, one injured and one killed throughout the first half of 2021. Vessels were boarded in 91 per cent of the reported incidents.

Gulf of Guinea still piracy hotspot

The Gulf of Guinea continues to be a piracy hotspot with 32 per cent of all reported incidents taking place in the region, according to IMB. The region accounted for all fifty kidnapped crew and the single crew fatality recorded by IMB during the first half of 2021.

Also read: IMB: All pirate kidnappings in 2021 occurred in the Gulf of Guinea

The number of kidnappings recorded in the Gulf of Guinea in the last quarter is the lowest since Q2 2019, but pirates continue to target all vessel types throughout the region. IMB warns that fishing vessels have been hijacked in the Gulf of Guinea and later used as mother ships to target other merchant vessels.

Attacks also seem to be occurring ever further from shore. In early June, a bulk carrier was approached by a skiff with six pirates while transitioning through the region at around 210 nautical miles off the coast of Lagos.

‘Whilst IMB welcomes reduced piracy and armed robbery activity in the Gulf of Guinea, the risk to seafarers still remains,’ says IMB director Michael Howlett. ‘By reporting all incidents to the Regional Authorities and IMB PRC, seafarers can maintain pressure against pirates. Bringing together maritime response authorities through initiatives – like Nigeria’s Deep Blue Project and Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaboration Forum – will continue and strengthen knowledge sharing channels and reduce risk to seafarers in the region.’

Incidents rise in Singapore Straits and off Peru

The Singapore Straits recorded sixteen incidents in the first six months of 2021, in comparison to eleven during the same period in 2020. These attacks are considered opportunistic in nature, but IMB warns that in seven incidents the perpetrators were armed with knives. In three separate incidents, seafarers were reported to have been either threatened, assaulted or injured.

Also read: ReCAAP urges vigilance after pirates board five bulk carriers in Singapore Straits

In comparison to the first half of 2019 and 2020, Callao Anchorage, Peru has experienced a two-fold increase in the number of incidents with nine incidents reported in total for 2021. There were four incidents in Q2 2021 and knives reported in three of these, according to the latest figures from IMB. Perpetrators in the region possess the capacity to carry out violent attacks with two separate incidents of crew being taken hostage and assaulted occurring in the first six months of 2021.

Vessels are advised to take precautionary measures while anchored in Manila Bay, Philippines, as four incidents were reported to IMB for Q2 2021.