Global incidents of piracy fell in the first half of the year to the lowest reported level in nearly 30 years amid ‘cautious’ gains in the Gulf of Guinea, the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in its latest piracy report released this week.

The report details 58 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the first six months of 2022, the lowest total since 1994 and down from 68 incidents during the same period last year. IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) received reports of 55 vessels boarded, two attempted attacks and one vessel hijacked from January through June. Notably, there were no crew kidnappings.

“Not only is this good news for the seafarers and the shipping industry it is positive news for trade which promotes economic growth,” said IMB Director Michael Howlett. “But the areas of risk shift and the shipping community must remain vigilant. We encourage governments and responding authorities to continue their patrols which create a deterrent effect.”

While the reduction in reported incidents is a welcomed development, the IMB PRC continues to caution against complacency. Vessels were boarded in 96% of the reported incidents and, despite no crew kidnappings reported during the period, violence and threats to crews continues with 23 crew taken hostage and five threatened.

Piracy in Gulf of Guinea

Of the 58 incidents, 12 were reported in the Gulf of Guinea, including ten which the IMB defined as armed robberies and two as piracy. In early April, a Panamax bulk carrier was attacked and boarded by pirates 260 nautical miles off the coast of Ghana, illustrating that despite a decrease in reported incidents, the threat of Gulf of Guinea piracy and crew kidnappings remains.

After being notified of the incident, IMB PRC immediately alerted and liaised with the Regional Authorities and international warships to request for assistance. An Italian Navy warship and its helicopter responded and instantly intervened, saving the crew and allowing the vessel to proceed to a safe port under escort.

“IMB PRC commends the prompt and positive actions of the Italian Navy which undoubtedly resulted in the crew and ship being saved,” the IMB said in its report. It’s urging the Coastal response agencies and independent international navies to continue their efforts to ensure this crime is permanently addressed in these waters which account for 74% of crew taken hostage globally.

Piracy in Singapore Strait

Vessels continue to be targeted and boarded by local bad actors when transiting the Singapore Straits, which account for over 25% of all incidents reported globally since the start of the year, according to the IMB report. Perpetrators were successful in boarding the vessels in all 16 incidents reported. While considered low level opportunistic crimes, crews continue to be at risk with weapons reported in at least six incidents, the IMB said.

Piracy in Gulf of Aden

Although no incidents were reported there since the start of the year, the threat of piracy still exists in the waters off the southern Red Sea and in the Gulf of Aden, which include the Yemeni and Somali coasts.

“Although the opportunity for incidents has reduced, the Somali pirates continue to possess the capability and capacity to carry out incidents, and all merchant ships are advised to adhere to the recommendations in the latest Best Management Practices, while transiting in these waters,” the IMB said.