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Latest IMB Report Reveal Rise in Maritime Crimes along Gulf of Guinea

By Obiabin Onukwugha

The ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has revealed a rise in reported incidents in the Gulf of Guinea and concerns for the Singapore Straits in its latest report for the period of January-September 2023.

The IMB Report, which was released on Wednesday, October 18, stated that 99 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported in the first nine months of 2023, an increase from 90 incidents for the same period in 2022.

It said 85 vessels were boarded, nine had attempted attacks, three were hijacked and two were fired upon while perpetrators successfully boarded 89% of targeted vessels with most incidents occurring at night in the period under review.

The IBM report said even though reported violence towards crew members is amongst the lowest in three decades, the risk to crew remained real with 69 taken hostage, 14 kidnapped, eight threatened, three injured and one assaulted.

“The Gulf of Guinea stands as a region of concern with a rise in reported incidents, as opposed to the downward trend we have seen in the past two years. The IMB sees regional ownership as critical to safeguard shipping and trade and to address these crimes,” IMB Director Michael Howlett said.

IBM noted that reported incidents increased in the Gulf of Guinea in the first nine months of 2023, from 21 compared to 14 for the same period in 2022.

Seventeen of these were classified as armed robberies and four as piracy with a mounting concern for crew as 54 were taken hostage, 14 kidnapped and two were injured.

It lamented that the Singapore Straits continues to raise concerns with 33 reported incidents in the first nine months of 2023 compared to 31 in the same period last year.

Overall, 31 vessels were boarded with five crew taken hostage and two threatened with 25% of incidents reported in July. It said in most cases, ship stores or properties were reported stolen.

According to the agency, with the navigational challenges of the Singapore Straits, even low-level opportunistic incidents could potentially increase the risk to safe navigation in these congested waters.

IMB expressed concern over the risks of late or under reporting of incidents of Marine crimes and commended local authorities for investigating nearly all reported incidents.

“We encourage reporting any incident, even low-level opportunistic ones, to local authorities as early as possible to protect seafarers and ensure the safety of regional and international shipping and trade,” Howlett stated.

The IMB added that it also recorded an increase in the number of incidents in the Indonesian archipelagic region, with 12 incidents reported compared to 10 for the same period in 2020 and seven in 2021. According to the body, Knives were sighted in five out of the 12 reported incidents.

Founded in 1991, IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre serves as a crucial 24-hour point of contact to report crimes of piracy and lend support to ships under threat.

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