Gulf of Guinea persists as maritime security hotspot, says IMB

Global piracy and armed robbery incidents have declined slightly in Q1 2021 but is still on the rise in the Gulf of Guinea, after the surge in cases during 2020.

IMB’s Q1 2021 global piracy report recorded 38 incidents for Q1 2021, which is down from the 47 incidents reported during the same period last year. In the first three months of 2021, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) reported 33 vessels boarded, two attempted attacks, two vessels fired upon, and one vessel hijacked.

Although there has been a decline in the number of cases, the kidnapping of and violence against crew has risen. Since the start of the year, 40 crew have been kidnapped, up from to 22 crew in Q1 2020. A crew member was also killed in Q1 2021.

IMB attributed the rise to an increase of piracy and armed robbery reported within the Gulf of Guinea as well as increased armed robbery activity in the Singapore Straits, plus increased piracy activity in the Americas.

The Gulf of Guinea accounted for nearly half (43%) of all reported piracy incidents during Q1, with IMB noting that the attacks were reportedly increasingly violent, occurring farther from shore, and with larger numbers of seafarers kidnapped per incident.

IMB said that the attack on the container vessel Mozart on January 23rd 2021, which resulted in a crew fatality, highlighted the urgency of the situation in the Gulf of Guinea. The Mozart was underway around 98 nm NW of Sao Tome and Principe when it was boarded by an unknown number of pirates. One crew member was killed and 15 were kidnapped.

There had been an increase in the number of reported piracy incidents in Callao Anchorage, Peru with five incidents occurring in the first three months of 2021, up from three in Q1 2020.

Meanwhile, container vessels were the target of attacks while underway or at anchor in Colombian waters. Perpetrators have been known to open containers and steal cargoes even while vessels are under pilotage, according to the IMB PRC.