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Piracy and armed robbery a threat to ships' crews, warns IMB

17 April 2020

Seafarers face continued threats from pirates and armed robbers on the world's seas as piracy incidents have increased in the first three months of 2020 compared with 2019, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

So far in 2020 there have been 47 attacks, up from 38 in the same period last year. Pirates boarded 37 ships in the first quarter of 2020.

The Gulf of Guinea remains the world's piracy hotspot. Seventeen 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 cooperation.

'Navy patrols, onboard security measures, cooperation and transparent information exchange between authorities, are all factors which help address the crimes of piracy and armed robbery,' said IMB 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.'

IMB's 24-hour Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) shows how Gulf of Guinea kidnappings persist, recording 21 attacks in the Gulf of Guinea in the first quarter of 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 in order to steal stores or cargo and abduct crewmembers to demand a ransom.

Four vessels reported being fired at within Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This includes a container ship underway around 130 nm southwest of Brass.

In another incident around 102 nm 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.

With many more attacks going unreported, IMB advises seafarers in the region to follow the recently published Best Management Practices West Africa – BMP WA.

In Indonesia by contrast, strategic deployment of Marine Police patrol vessels has resulted in a continued decline in attacks on ships in most anchorages and waterways.

In the Singapore Straits five ships were boarded while underway. No attacks were reported in Singapore in the first quarter of 2019.


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