IMB raises concern over piracy resurgence, including in Gulf of Guinea, Singapore Straits

Incidents of piracy and armed robbery in key strategic waterways around the world, including the Gulf of Guinea and the Singapore Straits, have increased in the first half of 2023, according to the ICC International Maritime Bureau’s mid-year report, published on 11 July.

The report noted that, at a global level, 65 piracy and armed robbery incidents were recorded between January and June 2023, compared to 58 across the same period in 2022.

It highlighted too the fact that, of the 65 incidents reported, 57 – or 87 percent – of these resulted in the targeted vessel being successfully boarded.

Moreover, violence towards seafarers has continued, with 36 crew taken hostage, 14 kidnapped, and three physically attacked.

In the Gulf of Guinea region, reported incident numbers almost doubled between the first and second quarters of 2023, from five to nine incidents. In total, 12 of these incidents were classified as either armed robbery or piracy.

In the Singapore Straits, there was a 25 percent increase in reported incidents in the first six months of the year compared to the same period in 2022. Of particular concern in this region is the targeting of large vessels transiting the Straits, with the risk to their safe passage being compounded by the fact that these waters are very busy.

The report said that South and Central America accounted for 14 percent of all global incidents during the period in question. Here, it explained, ships are at particular risk when berthed at certain anchorages.

Addressing the enduring regional risk in the Gulf of Guinea, Michael Howlett, IMB’s Director, said in a press statement that “The resurgence in reported incidents including hostage situations and crew kidnappings in the Gulf of Guinea waters is concerning. The IMB calls for continued, robust regional and international naval presence as a deterrent to address these crimes.”

“We once again call on Gulf of Guinea regional authorities and the international community to refocus their attention on the region, to establish long-term, sustainable solutions that effectively address these crimes and protect the seafaring and fishing communities,” the Director added.

It is worth noting that attacks off Nigeria and in Indonesia’s archipelago – two previous ‘hot spots’ – remain much reduced.

by Dr. Lee Willett