IMB – Disturbing rise in cases of maritime piracy

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has alerted to a disturbing rise in cases of maritime piracy and armed robbery throughout 2023, with the year marking the first hijacking off Somalia’s coast since 2017, based on data from its latest annual report released on January 11.

The report accounted for 120 instances of maritime piracy and armed robbery against ships in 2023, up from 115 in 2022. By incident type, 105 vessels were boarded, four were hijacked, two were subjected to gunfire, and there were nine additional attempted attacks. While the uptick in reported incidents in 2023 over the previous year isn’t excessive, the IMB calls for heightened security measures to ensure crew safety.

The number of crew members taken hostage increased from 41 in 2022 to 73 in 2023, and those kidnapped went from 2 to 14, respectively. In 2023, another ten crew members faced threats, four were injured, and one was assaulted. A particularly distressing incident for the IMB was the hijacking of a handymax bulk carrier about 700 miles east of Bosaso, Somalia, in the Gulf of Aden on December 14. This marks the first successful hijacking in the area since 2017. Reports suggest that subsequently, two dhows—small fishing boats that can be used as mother ships for other attacks—were also hijacked.

For Michael Howlett, the director of the IMB, this attack is a cause for concern and demonstrates the ongoing capability of Somali pirates. “The IMB once again urges all captains and ship owners to follow the recommendations and reporting procedures of the latest version of the Best Management Practices, BMP5,” Howlett stated.

The report shows how 2023 has disrupted the downward trend since 2020 of incidents reported in the Gulf of Guinea waters: 22 compared to 19 in 2022, 35 in 2021, and 81 in 2020. In this region, three of the four ship hijackings in 2023 occurred, as well as the 14 crew kidnappings, 75% of the hostages, and two of the injuries recorded last year. For the IMB, the Gulf of Guinea waters continue to be dangerous for seafarers.

In Southeast Asia and South America

The Singapore Strait continues to see many incidents, though these are considered low-level opportunistic crimes. There were 37 attacks recorded in 2023, one less than in 2022. Crew members continue to suffer harm, with nine kidnappings and two threats; the use of firearms was reported in three incidents, and bladed weapons in 15. Additionally, a crew member aboard a bulk carrier boarded by pirates in the Strait of Malacca in October 2023 was injured and required medical attention. The last reported incident of a crew member injured by pirates in the area was in 2015.

The report notes a year-over-year increase in incidents reported in the Indonesian archipelago, from 10 in 2022 to 18 in 2023. Weapons were reported in 50% of these incidents. Seven crew members were threatened, and two were taken hostage in 2023.

Lastly, there were 14 incidents at the anchorage of Callao in Peru. Seven crew members were taken hostage, and one was assaulted and threatened. Firearms and bladed weapons were reported in nine incidents. Other affected ports in South America included the anchorage of Macapa in Brazil and those of Cartagena and Puerto Bolivar in Colombia.

You can request the IMB’s annual report on piracy in 2023 at the following link.