The International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB) issued its annual report concerning international piracy incidents, highlighting that the Gulf of Guinea is a hot spot for piracy incidents and remains a crucial challenge for seafarers, says an article published in Safety4Sea.
- 195 incidents reported
- 191 crews impacted by the incidents
- GoG recorded the highest ever number of crew kidnapped in 2020, with 130 crew members taken in 22 separate incidents
- 96.3% of kidnaps were reported in GoG
- All three vessel hijackings and nine of the eleven vessels fired upon reported to the IMB PRC are related to the GoG
- South American ports remain the hot spots for armed robbery
- 30 incidents of armed robbery took place during 2020; 25 boardings, 3 attempted boardings, 2 vessels fired upon
- 23 Armed robbery incidents were reported in Singapore Strait, an increase from the 12 reported in 2019.
The increased piracy incidents in the Gulf of Guinea were a topic of discussion in IMB’s latest report that was published in October 2020, which highlighted a 40% increase in the number of kidnappings. Yet, the annual report sets the Gulf of Guinea in the spotlight.
Gulf of Guinea: An increase in 2020
On a global scale, 135 crew were kidnapped from their vessels in 2020, with the Gulf of Guinea accounting for over 95% of crew numbers kidnapped.
It is reported that a record 130 crew members were kidnapped in 22 separate incidents. Since 2019, the Gulf of Guinea has experienced an unprecedented rise in the number of multiple crew kidnappings. In the last quarter of 2019 alone, the Gulf of Guinea recorded 39 crew kidnapped in two separate incidents.
The incidents taking place in the area are a great danger to the seafarers, as over 80% of attackers were armed with guns. All three vessel hijackings and nine of the 11 vessels fired upon in 2020 related to this region. Crew kidnappings were reported in 25% of vessel attacks in the Gulf of Guinea – more than any other region in the world.
IMB informs that once the crewmembers are kidnapped, they are taken from their vessel and are held on shore until their release is negotiated. The furthest crew kidnapping in 2020 occurred almost 200 nautical miles (NM) from land with the average kidnapping incident taking place over 60NM from land.
Rise in kidnapping
The rise in kidnapping incidents further away from shorelines demonstrates the increasing capabilities of pirates in the Gulf of Guinea.
Recommendation: Given these developments, IMB advises vessels in the region to remain at least 250 NM from the coast at all times, or until the vessel can transit to commence cargo operations at a berth or safe anchorage.
Michael Howlett Comments
Michael Howlett, Director of the ICC International Maritime Bureau commented that “This is a worrying trend that can only be resolved through increased information exchange and coordination between vessels, reporting and response agencies in the Gulf of Guinea Region. Despite prompt action by navies in the region, there remains an urgent need to address this crime, which continues to have a direct impact on the safety and security of innocent seafarers.”
The area has been seeing an increase in piracy incidents since Q4 2019, with 23 incidents reported for 2020. It is reported that vessels were boarded in 22 of the 23 incidents. Although considered low level – i.e aimed at armed theft from the vessel – and tend to take place in the hours of darkness, one crew was injured, another taken hostage and two threatened during these incidents. Knives were reported in at least 14 incidents.
Armed robbery reports in Indonesia remained consistent with 26 low-level incidents reported in 2020, in comparison to 25 in 2019. Vessels continue to be boarded while anchored or berthed at Indonesian ports with two crew taken hostage and two threatened in 2020. The continued efforts of the Indonesian Marine Police are credited for maintaining the reduced levels of reported incidents.
IMB notes that “Another year without incident in Somalia, but crew must maintain vigilance.”
Although IMB received no reports for incidents concerning piracy and armed robbery events in Somalia, it warns the industry that Somalia pirates continue to possess the capacity to carry out attacks in the Somali basin and wider Indian Ocean.
Specifically, the report warns that, “Masters and crew must remain vigilant and cautious when transiting these waters.”
Similar to the 2020 report, the annual report concerning the incidents that took place in 2019, highlighted the increase of crew kidnappings and the fact that the number of crew kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea increased more than 50% from 78 in 2018 to 121 in 2019.
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