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Piracy incidents hit 28-year low

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In 2022, the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) received the lowest number of reported piracy incidents in the first half of a year since 1994.

The latest report from IMB covers January to June 2022 and recorded 58 incidents of piracy against ships, down from 68 incidents in the same period of 2021. The incidents break down to 55 boardings, two attempted attacks and one hijack.

While the overall number of incidents fell, IMB warned against complacency as such a high proportion of incidents resulted in boardings.

Although there were no crew kidnappings in the first half of 2022, 28 crews were impacted by attacks, including 23 crew taken hostage and five crew threatened.

30 bulkers were targeted in the period, along with 18 tankers, five container ships and five other ships. 32 of the ships were anchored, 19 were steaming and seven were berthed when attacked.

12 of the 58 incidents in the first half of the year were reported in the Gulf of Guinea: 10 armed robberies and two piracy incidents. IMB highlighted one incident where a panamax bulk carrier was boarded 260 nautical miles off Ghana; IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) alerted authorities and navies in the region, leading to the intervention of an Italian Navy warship and its helicopter.

“IMB PRC commends the prompt and positive actions of the Italian Navy which undoubtedly resulted in the crew and ship being saved. It urges the Coastal response agencies and independent international navies to continue their efforts to ensure this crime is permanently addressed in these waters which account for 74% of crew taken hostage globally,” said the report.

There were no reported incidents in the Gulf of Aden, which includes the once-infamous Somali coast. IMB warned that Somali pirates still have the capacity to launch attacks and urged ships transiting the area to adhere to the advice of Best Management Practice (BMP), a guide to vessel hardening and operation in high-risk areas.

Piracy remains a threat in the Singapore Strait, where all 16 reported incidents resulted in successful boardings, accounting for over a quarter of incidents globally in the first half of the year. “While considered low level opportunistic crimes, crews continue to be at risk with weapons reported in at least six incidents,” said the report.

The wider Indonesian archipelagic saw a slight increase in reported incidents, the first time this has happened since 2018. Five vessels were boarded at anchor, and one each at berth and steaming, compared to a total of five incidents in the first half last year.

IMB Director Michael Howlett said of the overall drop in incidents: “Not only is this good news for the seafarers and the shipping industry it is positive news for trade which promotes economic growth. But the areas of risk shift and the shipping community must remain vigilant. We encourage governments and responding authorities to continue their patrols which create a deterrent effect.”