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Ocean piracy incidents in 2023 above last year


The ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has revealed a rise in reported incidents in the Gulf of Guinea and concerns for the Singapore Straits in its latest report for the period of January-September 2023.

Ninety-nine incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported in the first nine months of 2023, an increase from 90 incidents for the same period in 2022.

This year, 85 vessels were boarded, nine had attempted attacks, three were hijacked and two were fired upon. Perpetrators successfully boarded 89% of targeted vessels with most incidents occurring at night.

Even though reported violence towards crew members is amongst the lowest in three decades, the risk to crew remains real with 69 taken hostage, 14 kidnapped, eight threatened, three injured and one assaulted.

IMB Director Michael Howlett expressed concern over the rise in reported incidents in the Gulf of Guinea.

“The Gulf of Guinea stands as a region of concern with a rise in reported incidents, as opposed to the downward trend we have seen in the past two years,” said Mr. Howlett. “The IMB sees regional ownership as critical to safeguard shipping and trade and to address these crimes.”

Gulf of Guinea

In the Gulf of Guinea, 21 incidents were recorded in the first nine months of 2023, compared to 14 incidents during the same period in 2022. Among these incidents, 17 were classified as armed robberies and four as piracy. The safety of crew members is a mounting concern, as 54 were taken hostage, 14 were kidnapped, and two were injured.

Singapore Straits

In the Singapore Straits, there were 33 reported incidents in the first nine months of 2023, compared to 31 incidents during the same period last year. Out of these incidents, 31 vessels were boarded, five crew members were taken hostage, and two were threatened. The majority of incidents were reported in July, with ship stores or properties being the primary target for theft.

The navigational challenges of the Singapore Straits further compound the risks posed by these incidents, potentially affecting safe navigation in these congested waters.

IMB emphasizes the importance of early reporting of incidents, even low-level opportunistic ones, to protect seafarers and ensure the safety of regional and international shipping and trade. The organization commends local authorities for their efforts in investigating nearly all reported incidents.

Indonesian Archipelago and South America

The IMB’s report also highlighted an increase in the number of incidents in the Indonesian archipelagic region, with 12 incidents reported during the first nine months of 2023, compared to 10 incidents during the same period in 2020 and seven incidents in 2021. Knives were sighted in five out of the 12 reported incidents.

Furthermore, reports from Callao Anchorage in Peru increased to 13 incidents from eight during the same period in 2022. These incidents included nine crew members being taken hostage, one member being threatened, and another member being assaulted.

(Photo from IMO)