Armed Sea Robbery and Piracy A Continuing Threat To Seafarers! Warns IMB


The International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB) warns of continuing threats seafarers face from pirates and armed robbers on the world’s seas, says an article published in their website.

Attacks in 2020

The International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB),  reports 47 attacks in the first three months of 2020. This is an increase from 38 in the same period last year.

Reports highlight that Pirates boarded 37 ships in the first quarter of 2020.

World’s piracy hotspot

The Gulf of Guinea remains the world’s piracy hotspot. Seventeen crew were kidnapped in three incidents in these waters, 75 nautical miles from the coast.

Zero hijackings 

IMB’s latest global piracy report shows zero hijackings in the last two quarters, and no incidents around Somalia. 

Attacks worldwide reduced?

But with no sign of a reduction in attacks worldwide, IMB encourages shipowners to stay vigilant, calling for continued international cooperation.

IMB Director Michael Howlett listed factors which help address the crimes of piracy and armed robbery:

  • Navy patrols, 
  • onboard security measures, 
  • cooperation and 
  • transparent information exchange between authorities.

He added, “The threat to crew is, however still real – whether from violent gangs, or opportunistic armed thieves inadvertently coming face-to-face with the crew. Ships’ masters must continue to follow industry best practice diligently and maintain watches. Early detection of an approaching pirate skiff is often key to avoiding an attack.” 

Piracy Reporting Centre’s (PRC) report

Gulf of Guinea 

  • IMB’s 24-hour Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) recorded 21 attacks in the Gulf of Guinea in the first quarter of 2020. 
  • Of these, 12 were on vessels underway at an average of 70 nautical miles off the coast. 
  • All vessel types are at risk and the perpetrators are usually armed. 
  • They approach in speedboats, boarding ships in order to steal stores or cargo and abduct crewmembers to demand a ransom.

Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) 

  • 10 vessels were fired upon worldwide for the whole of 2019.
  • Four already reported being fired at within Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the first quarter of 2020. 
  • This includes a container ship underway around 130 nm southwest of Brass. 
  • In another incident around 102 nm northwest of Sao Tome Island, another container ship was boarded by pirates. 
  • The crew retreated into the citadel and raised the alarm. 
  • On receiving the alert, the IMB PRC liaised with Regional Authorities and the vessel operator until the vessel was safe and the crew had emerged from the citadel.

The IMB PRC commends actions

Gulf of Guinea region 

Mr Howlett said The IMB PRC commends Regional coastal state response agencies and international navies in the Gulf of Guinea region for actively responding to reported incidents.

With many more attacks going unreported, IMB advises seafarers in the region to follow the recently published Best Management Practices West Africa – BMP WA.


Strategic deployment of Marine Police patrol vessels has resulted in a continued decline in attacks on ships in most Indonesian anchorages and waterways – thanks to positive cooperation between the IMB PRC and the Indonesian Marine Police (IMP). 

  • In the first quarter of 2020, just five anchored vessels were reported boarded. These are often low-level armed robbery attacks. 
  • The IMB PRC is monitoring the situation and continues to liaise with the IMP as well as other local and regional authorities.

Singapore Straits 

  • Five ships were boarded while underway in the Singapore Straits where no attacks were reported in the first quarter of 2019. 
  • These low-level armed robbery attacks are a distraction to crews navigating in congested waters. 
  • In one incident the crew managed to lock their assailants in the storeroom, which enabled their later arrest.


  • Other violence against seafarers includes the kidnapping of five crew for ransom in an attack on a fishing vessel off Sabah, Malaysia in January 2020. 
  • In March, at Macapa Anchorage, Brazil, a watchman was confronted while on duty and held temporarily by a group of robbers. 
  • Meanwhile, in the anchorage of Callao, Peru, three crew were apprehended by nine robbers who boarded their vessel to steal the ship’s stores. 
  • Two crew were injured during the incident. Callao recorded five incidents in the last quarter of 2019 and three this quarter.

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Source: ICC


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