IMB Calls for More Action Against Piracy Despite 30-Year Low

Danish frigate patrolling in the Gulf of Guinea in November 2021 (Anders Fridberg photo courtesy of Danish Armed Forces)

Published Apr 13, 2023 9:38 PM by The Maritime Executive

While reporting that piracy against ships is at the lowest level in 30 years, the ICC International Maritime Bureau is repeating its calls for continued, robust, and coordinated regional and international naval presence to continue to act as a deterrent to and respond to piracy. After two incidents, one of which is still ongoing, the bureau which was set up just over 40 years ago by the International Chamber of Commerce to track piracy and coordinate the responses, is highlighting urgent concerns once again for the Gulf of Guinea as well as the ongoing problems in the Singapore Strait and South America.

“The IMB has recorded the lowest level of reported global piracy and armed robbery incidents since 1993,” they write in their quarterly report released on April 13. They however reiterated the calls for vigilance noting that there had been 27 incidents, including 24 boardings with six crew kidnapped and two others were taken hostage during the quarter. They are calling attention to the fact that 92 percent of the vessels attacked were boarder.

The report was released as agencies in the Gulf of Guinea remained frustrated in their effort with the ongoing incident involving a Singapore-owned tanker, the Success 9. MDAT-GoG, the monitoring effort for the Gulf of Guinea, issued a brief update early on April 13 reporting that the tanker remains unlocated and continuing to ask for regional assistance. The tanker, which Singapore authorities said has 20 crewmembers aboard, has not transmitted an AIS signal since April 10.

National and international efforts are believed to be underway to locate the 4,300 dwt tanker. Reuters cited sources in Cote d’Ivoire saying their patrol boat had not been able to locate the vessel while the Nigerian Navy said it is attempting to help while pointing out the incident was not in their domain. The French Navy intervened in the prior hijacking two weeks ago and the Italian Navy assisted with an incident in January.

IMB notes that the six crewmembers kidnapped during the quarter were all in the Gulf of Guinea saying, “There is, however, simply no room for complacency. The IMB Piracy Reporting Center urges the coastal response agencies and independent international navies to continue their efforts to ensure this crime is permanently addressed in these waters.”

The report highlights that 65 percent of the incidents during the quarter happened either in the Singapore Strait, Indonesia, or Peru. The Singapore Strait has been a concern since a December 2019 General Warning was issued. The report highlights the number of incidents was down, eight versus 11 in the year-ago first quarter, but it is still nearly a third of all incidents and the highest number of reports of any region. “While the incidents in this region tend to be cases of petty theft, the threat of violence remains a worrisome possibility, with knives sighted and reported in two incidents,” writes the IMB.

The other area they highlight is the anchorage in Callao, Peru calling it of “particular concern.” They note that the area also represents a third of the reports while highlighting that two crew members were taken hostage while another was assaulted. The five reports this quarter represents a steady level of activity versus the past two years.

In the breakdown of reports, they show that the highest number of incidents is either on vessels underway or at anchor. By type of vessel, bulkers were the most vulnerable with 11 reports versus seven for tankers.

"We emphasize the need for continued, robust, and coordinated regional and international naval presence to act as a deterrent to prevent and respond to piracy – especially considering nearly 85 percent of international trade is transported via the sea and it is the seafarers who need to be safeguarded,” concludes IMB Director Michael Howlett.