Rise in maritime piracy incidents in 2023

The annual Piracy and Armed Robbery Report of the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB), has raised concerns at the re-emergence of Somali-based hijacking, which has been quiescent since 2017 and which might have reappeared as a side-effect of the current Houthi activity a short way to the north in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

The IMB annual report recorded 120 incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery against ships in 2023, up from 115 in 2022. Of these, 105 vessels were boarded, nine were attempted attacks, four vessels were hijacked and two were fired upon.

The number of crew taken hostage increased year on year from 41 to 73, while the number kidnapped rose from two to 14. A further 10 crew were threatened in 2023, with four injured and one assaulted.

IMB Director Michael Howlett said that the December 14th hi-jacking was “a cause for concern”

Three of four reported vessel hijackings in 2023 were in the Gulf of Guinea, along with all of the 14 crew kidnappings and 75% of reported crew hostages.

The Singapore Straits remained an area of concern due to the high number of incidents. While these were mainly low-level opportunistic crimes and were not piracy in the technical sense of the word, 95% of reported incidents were successful, with 37 reported incidents overall in 2023, compared to 38 in 2022.

Nine crew were temporarily taken hostage and two were threatened. Guns were reported in three recorded incidents and knives in 15.

IMB said that it was concerned at the late reporting and under reporting of incidents.

Finally, IMB said that there were looming threats in South America/ Ther were 14 incidents reported from vessels at Callao anchorage in Peru. Seven crew were taken hostage. Guns and knives were reported in nine incidents.

Other ports affected in South America were Macapa anchorage in Brazil, and Cartagena and Puerto Bolivar anchorages in Colombia.