In its latest report, the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has revealed a rise in reported piracy and armed robbery incidents against ships in the Gulf of Guinea and concerns for the Singapore Straits. 99 incidents were reported in the first nine months of 2023, up from ninety for the same period in 2022.

The report covers the period of January-September 2023 and was released 11 October.

This year, 85 vessels were boarded, nine had attempted attacks, three were hijacked and two were fired upon. Perpetrators successfully boarded 89 per cent of targeted vessels with most incidents occurring at night.

Even though reported violence towards crew members is amongst the lowest in three decades, the risk to crew remains real with 69 taken hostage, fourteen kidnapped, eight threatened, three injured and one assaulted.

Also read: IMB warns of resurgence of piracy in Gulf of Guinea

Increase in incidents for Gulf of Guinea

‘The Gulf of Guinea stands as a region of concern with a rise in reported incidents, as opposed to the downward trend we have seen in the past two years,’ says IMB director Michael Howlett. ‘The IMB sees regional ownership as critical to safeguard shipping and trade and to address these crimes.’

Reported incidents increased in the Gulf of Guinea in the first nine months of 2023, from 21 compared to fourteen for the same period in 2022. Seventeen were classified as armed robberies and four as piracy with a mounting concern for crew as 54 were taken hostage, fourteen kidnapped and two were injured.

Worrying signs in the Singapore Straits

The Singapore Straits continues to raise concerns with 33 reported incidents in the first nine months of 2023 compared to 31 in the same period last year. Overall, 31 vessels were boarded with five crew taken hostage and two threatened with 25 per cent of incidents reported in July. In most cases, ship stores or properties were reported stolen.

Considering the navigational challenges of the Singapore Straits, even low-level opportunistic incidents, could potentially increase the risk to safe navigation in these congested waters. IMB also expresses concern over the risks of late or under reporting of these incidents and commends local authorities for investigating nearly all reported incidents.

Howlett: ‘We encourage reporting any incident, even low-level opportunistic ones, to local authorities as early as possible to protect seafarers and ensure the safety of regional and international shipping and trade.’

Also read: IMB: Decline in piracy incidents persists

Rise in incidents in Indonesian Archipelago and South America

The IMB also recorded an increase in the number of incidents in the Indonesian archipelagic region, with twelve incidents reported compared to ten for the same period in 2020 and seven in 2021. Knives were sighted in five out of the twelve reported incidents.

Reports from Callao Anchorage in Peru have increased to thirteen from eight in the same period in 2022, with reports of nine crew taken hostage and one member threatened and another assaulted.

Also read: Piracy in 2022 at lowest level in decades

IMB Piracy Reporting Centre

Since its founding in 1991, IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre serves as a 24-hour point of contact to report crimes of piracy and lend support to ships under threat. Quick reactions and a focus on coordinating with response agencies, sending out warning broadcasts and e-mail alerts to ships have all helped bolster security on the high seas. The data gathered by the Centre also provides key insights on the nature and state of modern piracy.

IMB encourages all shipmasters and owners to report all actual, attempted and suspected global piracy and armed robbery incidents to the Piracy Reporting Centre as a vital first step to ensuring adequate resources are allocated by authorities to tackle maritime piracy.

Also read: Nigeria and shipping industry to battle piracy in Gulf of Guinea together