IMB Raises Concern About Resurgent Maritime Piracy in Gulf of Guinea

The IMB piracy summary report for the first six months of 2023. Image: International Maritime Bureau.

The International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in July raised concerns about the resurgence of reported piracy incidents in Gulf of Guinea waters and an increase in incidents in the Singapore Straits.

In its mid-year report for 2023, the IMB said that 65 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were recorded in the first half of 2023, an increase from 58 incidents during the same period in 2022.

Of the 65 reported incidents, 57 vessels were boarded, four had attempted attacks, two were hijacked and two were fired upon. Perpetrators successfully boarded 90% of targeted vessels. Violence towards crew continues with 36 taken hostage, 14 kidnapped, three threatened, two injured and one assaulted.

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

The Gulf of Guinea witnessed a concerning surge in maritime incidents between the first and second quarters of 2023, with five incidents in the first quarter and nine in the second quarter. Out of these, 12 were classified as armed robberies and two as piracy, predominantly targeting anchored vessels in the region, according to the IMB.

Fourteen crew were reported kidnapped, of which eight crew members were taken from vessels anchored within territorial waters. Additionally, in two separate hijackings, 31 crew members were reported held hostage, communication and navigation equipment were destroyed, and partial cargoes were stolen.

One of these incidents also involved the abduction of six crew members.

“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,” Howlett said.

Although considered low level opportunistic crimes, large vessels transiting through the Singapore Straits often remain targeted and boarded, with a significant 25% increase in reported incidents compared to the same period last year in these congested waters, according to the IMB.

The organization has requested that littoral states allocate the required resources to address these crimes as crew members continue to be at risk with weapons reported in at least eight incidents.

The Indonesian archipelagic region has shown a sustained decrease in reported incidents compared to years preceding 2020, with seven incidents reported, primarily involving anchored or berthed vessels, IMB data show. However, crew members remain at risk, with instances of threats and knives reported.

In South and Central American ports, which accounted for 14% of global incidents, there were 13 reported piracy acts, including attempted boardings, hostage situations, crew assaults and threats at Callao Anchorage in Peru, Colombia, Macapa Anchorage in Brazil, and Panama.