The number of attacks on ships and crews increased by 20 percent in the first half of 2020, the ICC International Maritime Bureau has reported.
In the Gulf of Guinea, considered the most dangerous area, more attacks are taking place further out to sea—up to 160 nautical miles from shore—with the support of motherships.
The US maritime authorities reported 53 incidents of piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea region in the first six months of the year, about 50 percent of them off the coast of Nigeria and almost a third involving hijackings and/or kidnappings.
IMB's Piracy Reporting Centre recorded 98 incidents of piracy and armed robbery in the first half of 2020, up from 78 in the first half of 2019.
It said 77 seafarers had been taken hostage or kidnapped for ransom since January, with the Gulf of Guinea accounting for over 90 percent of maritime kidnappings worldwide.
'Violence against crews is a growing risk in a workforce already under immense pressure,' IMB director Michael Howlett said.
'In the Gulf of Guinea, attackers armed with knives and guns now target crews on every type of vessel. Everyone's vulnerable.'
Violence against crews is a growing risk in a workforce already under immense pressure IMB director Michael Howlett
The IMB report says vessels were boarded a total of 81 times; there were 10 attempted attacks; six instances in which a vessel was fired upon; but only one successful hijacking.
Attackers were indiscriminate in their choice of targets: the report cited 36 attacks against tankers, 21 against bulk carriers and 17 against container ships.
In most cases, the vessels were at anchor when attacked. In 23 cases, crewmembers were taken hostage.
The Singapore Straits saw 11 incidents in the first half of 2020. The authorities said that most assaults in the region were not planned in advance, but appeared to be opportunistic, low-level attacks that were aborted once an alarm was sounded.
In South America, the IMB reports attacks in the Callao, Peru, anchorage, while vessels off Ecuador have also recorded incidents each year since 2017, including three container ships attacked while underway in the first six months of 2020.
The IMB is also recording more incidents in new areas of Latin America, although it said many go unreported. The report cites four attacks in Mexico, all targeting offshore vessels in an 11-day period in April.