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Crew hostage taking doubles despite fall in piracy incidents

Photo: EU NAVFOR ATALANTA X Feed Piracy-event-photo-2.jpg
IMB figures show 85% of reported ship hijackings and robberies were successful in the first half of 2024, with a worrying increase in violence against crew.

There were 60 incidents of piracy reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC) in the first half of 2024, down from 65 in the same period in 2023. The decrease in the headline figure masks a sharp rise in violence towards crew; 85 crew were taken hostage in the period compared to 36 a year prior, with 11 kidnappings and two crews threatened.

Reports include accounts of crew having their hands and legs tied up, personal belongings stolen, as well as kidnappings for ransom. 

The figures for the first half of the year from International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB) comprise 46 vessels boarded and four hijackings, as well as eight attempted attacks and two vessels fired upon.

The global figures from IMB are collated from reports to IMB PRC in Kuala Lumpur, and  the were slightly above the 58 incidents reported in H1 2022, but lower than the 68 and 98 in 2021 and 2020, respectively. 

A sharp increase in activity was seen in East Africa and the waters off Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, the theatre of high profile pirate activity in the late 2000s and early 2010s. There was just one report of pirate activity in area for the first halves of the years 2020-2023 combined, while eight incidents were reported in H1 2024.

Three vessels were hijacked in the region, two were boarded, two were fired upon and one reported an attempted approach. The IMB renewed its warning against complacency in the region as recent attacks show an extended range for pirate attacks of up to 1,000 nm from somali shores.

“Although only eight Somali piracy incidents have been recorded, several hijackings of dhows and fishing boats have not yet been reported,” IMB noted. 

Houthi attacks in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea are non-piracy and therefore not covered by IMB, but the organisation urged vessels to register and report to relevant authorities in the region as per Best Management Practices (BMP).

IMB figures showed a noticeable drop in reported incidents in the Singapore Straits, falling from 20 in the first half of last year to 13 in H1 2024, supporting data from ReCAAP earlier this month which reported a 50% decrease in piracy and armed robbery incidents in the region.

IMB noted the large size of vessels involved in some of the incidents – three large bulk carriers over 175,000 dwt and four over 75,000 dwt – and the potential consequences of these vessels being boarded as they navigate the straits.

“Although this apparent decrease is welcomed the IMB is aware of incidents not being reported,” it added. 

The full ICC IMB report Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships 1 January - 30 June 2024 includes commentaries of reported events and regional breakdowns of statistics and is available on the ICC IMB website.