Incidents of piracy and armed robbery increased in 2018, according to the latest annual piracy report from the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB). The IMB reports a marked rise in attacks against ships and crews around West Africa.
The IMB worldwide 24-hour Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) recorded 201 incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery worldwide in 2018, up from 180 in 2017, with the Gulf of Guinea an increasingly dangerous hotspot for seafarers. Incidents in the waters between the Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo more than doubled, “accounting for all six hijackings worldwide, 13 of the 18 ships fired upon, 130 of the 141 hostages taken globally and 78 of 83 seafarers kidnapped for ransom”.
The incidents in this region are often violent, with crew kidnapped, often far out at sea, and taken into Nigeria to be held for ransom. The vessels subject to attack have spread from tankers, oil industry and fishing vessels to include bulk carriers, containerships and general cargo vessels.
The IMB advises ships to maintain their vigilance when transiting through these waters, as well as those off Somalia, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The most recent incidents reported to the PRC include the following.
- Two robbers armed with a steel bar boarded a bulk carrier anchored at Cao Fei Dian, China on 12 January. The alarm was raised and the robbers escaped empty-handed.
- Around four to five robbers attempted to board a tanker anchored at Lagos, Nigeria on 7 January. They were spotted and the alarm was raised, and non-essential crew members mustered in the citadel. A Nigerian Navy patrol boat responded to a request for assistance, and the robbers moved away.
- Two robbers with plastic hoses boarded a tanker anchored at Lagos, Nigeria on 7 January, and attempted to steal cargo. They were spotted by the duty crew who raised the alarm, and the robbers escaped. A Nigerian Navy patrol boat checked the surrounding waters.
- Armed pirates attacked and boarded a containership around 55 nautical miles off Cotonou, Benin on 2 January. Six crew members were reported missing. The remaining crew sailed the ship to a safe port.
- Four armed robbers boarded a containership anchored at Pointe Noire, Democratic Republic of Congo on 22 December. The alarm was raised, the crew mustered in the citadel and rocket flares were fired. The robbers escaped with stolen stores.
- The master of a tug towing a barge was shot in the leg when four armed men in a speedboat approached and fired on the tug around 12 nautical miles off Sabah, Malaysia on 5 December. The alarm was raised, and a Royal Malaysian Police boat responded and took the injured master to hospital.