Although it mostly takes place on the other side of the world, maritime piracy can have far-reaching effects for the goods movement industry.
When parts of the supply chain are attacked in regions of the world like Asia and Africa, it can lead to disruptions in the Pacific region in the form of vessel delays, ship reroutings and cargo adjustments.
But the International Maritime Bureau, which is run by the International Chamber of Commerce, revealed some good news recently: during the first six months of 2021, the Bureau recorded the lowest number of reported piracy incidents for the first half of any year since 1994.
Although reported piracy and armed robbery incidents were at their lowest level in 27 years, risks remain to seafarers and the IMB is cautioning against complacency, since vessels were boarded in 91% of the reported incidents.
Despite the overall decline in reported incidents, violence against crews has continued, according to IMB data with 50 crew kidnapped, three each threatened and taken hostage, two assaulted, one injured and one killed during the first half of this year.
The Gulf of Guinea continues to be particularly dangerous for seafarers with 32% of all reported incidents taking place in the region, according to IMB data. The region accounted for all 50 kidnapped crew and the single crew fatality recorded by the IMB during the first half of 2021.
And although it’s rare compared to other regions of the world, piracy can happen relatively close to U.S. waters. For example, there’s been a spate of attacks on oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, including a July 19 incident where eight gunmen boarded a platform and ransacked it while holding the crew hostage.
The Mexican government has registered 88 pirate attacks on oil infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico since 2015, including 20 last year. However, the International Transport Workers Federation claims the number is much higher, with its records showing 180 attacks in 2019 alone.
Whatever the number is, there’s no denying that pirate attacks abroad and in North America are a danger to the goods transport industry that needs to be accounted for.
Although the risk of acts of piracy against Neopanamax or ultra-large containerships is not high, the risk against bulk carriers and other smaller goods transport vessels definitely is.
Security experts say that when operating in waters with heightened risk, vessel hardening is a vital part of the ship’s security defense. A guide to vessel hardening, produced by a collection of oil companies that have been occasional or frequent targets of maritime pirates, can be downloaded for free at https://www.american-club.com/files/files/OCIMF_guidelines_to_harden_vessels.pdf.
In addition, the IMB has stated that by reporting all incidents to the Maritime Bureau and regional authorities, seafarers can maintain pressure against pirates, strengthen knowledge-sharing channels and reduce risk to seafarers.
“Reporting piracy and armed robbery incidents is the first line of defense against future attacks,” ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO said. “Sustained reporting to IMB will enable governments, maritime response agencies and other stakeholders to establish safer waters for our seafarers and smooth flow of goods throughout global supply chains.”
Managing Editor Mark Nero can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org