The International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has released their annual Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships report, in which the bureau notes that 2018 saw an uptick in incidents from previous years. In a departure from the recent trend, the center of the increased pirate activity was African nations, not South East Asian waters.
The regions with the largest increases in acts of piracy were Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, and The Congo. In total, 201 incidents were reported in 2018, compared to 180 in 2017, and those reported off the coast of African countries accounted for 87 separate incidents.
As stated by the IMB, “The Gulf of Guinea remains increasingly dangerous for seafarers. Reports of attacks in waters between the Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo more than doubled in 2018, 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 report shows that in the last three months of 2018, 41 kidnappings occurred in waters off Nigeria alone. In contrast, no ships were hijacked off the Somali coast, although two were fired upon by pirates.
This shift in violence also comes with a different set of targets. According to the report, “Armed criminals are reaching further out to sea and targeting a wider variety of ships: bulk carriers, container vessels and general cargo vessels in addition to local attacks on tankers, oil industry support vessels and fishing vessels.”
“There is an urgent need for increased cooperation and sharing of intelligence between the Gulf of Guinea’s littoral states so that effective action can be taken against pirates, both at sea and on-shore where their operations originate and end,” an IMB spokesman said. “There has been some improvement in the estimated number of unreported attacks in 2018, but at around 48 percent there is still a long way to go.”
The report did contain relatively good news. While there were 241 reported instances of violence towards crews, no sailors were killed in the attacks. Additionally, attacks off the coast of Indonesia have dropped off significantly, and of those that did occur, the vast majority were low-level opportunistic thefts.
No U.S.-flagged vessels were attacked in 2018, according to the report.