Piracy and attacks on crews on the increase

The boarding of a tanker in the Straits of Hormuz highlights the continuing interference with shipping by malignant forces. The IMB reports these incidents are on the increase with 47 attacks in the first three months of 2020, up from 38 in the same period last year. Pirates boarded 37 ships in Q1 2020.

The Gulf of Guinea remains the world’s piracy hotspot where 17 crew were kidnapped in three incidents in these waters, at distances of between 45 and 75 nautical miles from the coast.

IMB’s latest global piracy report shows zero hijackings in the last two quarters, and no incidents around Somalia. But with no sign of a reduction in attacks worldwide, IMB encourages shipowners to stay vigilant, calling for continued international co-operation.

“Navy patrols, onboard security measures, co-operation and transparent information exchange between authorities are all factors which help address the crimes of piracy and armed robbery,” said IMB’s director Michael Howlett.

“The threat to crew is, however, still real – whether from violent gangs, or opportunistic armed thieves inadvertently coming face-to-face with the crew. Ships’ masters must continue to follow industry best practice diligently and maintain watches. Early detection of an approaching pirate skiff is often key to avoiding an attack,” he added.

The Gulf of Guinea is the current hotspot for attacks on shipping. IMB’s 24-hour Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) recorded 21 attacks in the Gulf of Guinea in Q1 2020. Of these, 12 were on vessels underway at an average of 70 nautical miles off the coast. All vessel types are at risk. The perpetrators are usually armed. They approach in speedboats, boarding ships to steal stores or cargo and abduct crewmembers to demand a ransom.

While 10 vessels were fired upon worldwide for the whole of 2019, four have already reported being fired at within Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone in Q1 2020. This includes a container ship underway around 130 nautical miles southwest of Brass.

In another incident around 102 nautical miles northwest of Sao Tome Island, another container ship was boarded by pirates. The crew retreated into the citadel and raised the alarm. On receiving the alert, the IMB PRC liaised with regional authorities and the vessel operator until the vessel was safe and the crew had emerged from the citadel.

“The IMB PRC commends regional coastal state response agencies and international navies in the Gulf of Guinea region for actively responding to reported incidents,” said Mr Howlett. With many more attacks going unreported, IMB advises seafarers in the region to follow the recently published Best Management Practices West Africa – BMP WA.

On the positive side, strategic deployment of Marine Police patrol vessels has resulted in a continued decline in attacks on ships in most Indonesian anchorages and waterways – thanks to positive co-operation between the IMB PRC and the Indonesian Marine Police (IMP). In Q1 2020, just five anchored vessels were reported boarded. These are often low-level armed robbery attacks. The IMB PRC is monitoring the situation and continues to liaise with the IMP as well as other local and regional authorities.

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