International Report – Noteworthy maritime hijacking news from around the world

Piracy and Armed Robbery Incidents at Lowest Level in 27 Years, IMB Reports

The latest global piracy report from the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB) details 68 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships during the first half of 2021, down from 98 incidents during the same period last year, and the lowest total since 1994.

During the first six months of this year, IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) reported 61 vessels boarded, four attempted attacks, two vessels fired upon, and one vessel hijacked.

Despite the overall decline in reported incidents, violence against crews has continued with 50 crew kidnapped, three each threatened and taken hostage, two assaulted, one injured and one killed throughout the first half of 2021, according to data. Vessels were boarded in 91% of the reported incidents.

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. The region accounted for all 50 kidnapped crew and the single crew fatality recorded by IMB during the first half of 2021.

The number of kidnappings recorded in the Gulf of Guinea in the last quarter is the lowest since Q2 2019, but pirates continue to target all vessel types throughout the region. IMB warns that fishing vessels have been hijacked in the Gulf of Guinea and later used as mother ships to target other merchant vessels.

“Whilst IMB welcomes reduced piracy and armed robbery activity in the Gulf of Guinea, the risk to seafarers still remains,” IMB Director Michael Howlett said in a statement. “By reporting all incidents to the Regional Authorities and IMB PRC, seafarers can maintain pressure against pirates. Bringing together maritime response authorities through initiatives – like Nigeria’s Deep Blue Project and Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaboration Forum – will continue and strengthen knowledge sharing channels and reduce risk to seafarers in the region.”

In early June, a bulk carrier was approached by a skiff with six pirates while transitioning through the region at around 210 nautical miles off the coast of Lagos. The carrier – equipped with appropriate vessel hardening —was able to prevent the armed pirates from coming onboard, but the incident demonstrates the continued capacity of pirates in the region to carry out attacks at further distances from the coast.

The Singapore Straits recorded 16 incidents in the first six months of 2021, in comparison to 11 during the same period in 2020. These attacks are considered opportunistic in nature, but IMB warns that in seven incidents the perpetrators were armed with knives. In three separate incidents, seafarers were reported to have been either threatened, assaulted or injured.

In comparison to the first half of 2019 and 2020, Callao Anchorage, Peru has experienced a two-fold increase in the number of incidents with nine incidents reported in total for 2021. There were four incidents in Q2 2021, and knives reported in three of these, according to the latest figures from IMB. Perpetrators in the region possess the capacity to carry out violent attacks with two separate incidents of crew being taken hostage and assaulted occurring in the first six months of 2021.

Vessels are also being advised to take precautionary measures while anchored in Manila Bay, Philippines, as four incidents were reported to IMB in the second quarter of 2021.

“Reporting piracy and armed robbery incidents is the first line of defense against future attacks,” said ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO. “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.”

9 Hijackers Convicted in Togo’s 1st-Ever Piracy Trial

Nine pirates who attempted to hijack a ship in Togolese waters in May 2019 were sentenced in early July to prison terms ranging from 12 to 20 years during a trial in Togo, according to Paris-based news agencies Agence France-Presse and Africanews.

It was the first time that pirates have been tried in Togo, a small West African country that shares a coastline with several other nations on the Gulf of Guinea, which is a major trading route that now accounts for most of the world’s abductions of commercial crew by pirates.

A total of 10 pirates, including seven Nigerians, two Togolese and one Ghanaian, went on trial for “maritime piracy, willful violence and groups of criminals.” The Ghanian, who is on the run and facing an international arrest warrant, was on July 5 sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison, according to the news agencies.

One Togolese national was acquitted while the other eight pirates were handed sentences ranging from 12 to 15 years.

The group had been accused of attacking the tanker G-DONA 1 on May 11, 2019.

“People should understand that piracy and armed robbery at sea will be punished,” prosecutor Kodjo Gnambi Garba told reporters. “And for these sea offenses, we will be uncompromising.”

According to the two French news agencies, pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea are mainly carried out by gangs from southeastern Nigeria who use speedboats to raid offshore commercial vessels and kidnap their crews for ransom.

In 2019, about 100 attacks occurred on the coast of West Africa, according to data from piracy research group Stable Seas. In April, the International Maritime Bureau reported that all 40 kidnapped crew incidents reported in the first quarter of 2021 took place in the Gulf of Guinea, a 3,500 mile stretch of coastline that partially winds around the continent.

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