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IMB calls for regional efforts to safeguard seafarers

21 December 2023

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

Ninety-nine incidents of piracy and armed robbery 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 said: '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. The IMB sees regional ownership as critical to address these crimes.'

Increase in incidents for Gulf of Guinea

Reported incidents increased in the Gulf of Guinea in the first nine months of 2023, from 21 compared to 14 for the same period in 2022. Seventeen were classified as armed robberies and four as piracy with a mounting concern for crew as 54 were taken hostage, 14 kidnapped and two were injured.

Worrying signs in the Singapore Straits

The Singapore Straits continues to raise concerns with 33 reported incidents in the first nine months of 2023 compared to 31 in the same period last year. Overall, 31 vessels were boarded with five crew taken hostage and two threatened with 25% of incidents reported in July. In most cases, ship stores or properties were reported stolen.

Considering the navigational challenges of the Singapore Straits, even low-level opportunistic incidents, could potentially increase the risk to safe navigation in these congested waters. IMB also expresses concern over the risks of late or under reporting of these incidents and commends local authorities for investigating nearly all reported incidents.

Mr Howlett added: 'We encourage reporting any incident, even low-level opportunistic ones, to local authorities as early as possible to protect seafarers and ensure the safety of regional and international shipping and trade.'

Rise in incidents in Indonesian Archipelago and South America

The IMB recorded an increase in the number of incidents in the Indonesian archipelagic region, with 12 incidents reported compared to 10 for the same period in 2020 and seven in 2021.

Knives were sighted in five out of the 12 reported incidents. Reports from Callao Anchorage in Peru have increased to 13 from eight in the same period in 2022, with reports of nine crew taken hostage and one member threatened and another assaulted.

A free copy of the 2023-January to September Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships report can be requested from the IMB website.

High-risk area

The Gulf of Guinea is designated as a high risk area by the Warlike Operations Area Committee (WOAC), which consists of the UK Chamber of Shipping, Nautilus International and the RMT union.

WOAC designations cover UK-flagged ships. The designation entitles seafarers to certain rights when their vessels transits the area, including the opportunity to disembark ahead of time.

The Gulf of Guinea is also designated as an extended risk zone (ERZ) by the IBF/International Transport Workers' Federation.