The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has said that the increase in presence of international naval vessels and co-operation with regional authorities has had a positive impact on piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea.

The global reporting body said the region has recorded the lowest number of incidents since records began.

The IMB Director, Michael Howlett, said last November, the crew of Danish navy patrol vessel, Esbern Snare, shot five pirates, killing four in the Gulf of Guinea in an exchange of fire off the coast of Nigeria.

According to him, the incident occurred when the Danish frigate, which has been patrolling the area since early November, attempted to board the pirate ship.

He said incidents last year included 115 vessels being boarded, 11 attempted attacks, five vessels fired upon and one vessel hijacked.

“The IMB commends the robust actions of the international navies and regional authorities in the Gulf of Guinea, which appears to have positively contributed to the drop in reported incidents and ensuring continued safety to crews and trade,” Howlett said.

He noted that the overall reduction in incidents in 2021 followed a decline in the Gulf of Guinea region, to 34 reported incidents last year from 81 in 2020.

Howlett said IMB received 132 reports of attacks against ships in 2021, the lowest since 1994.

He said while kidnappings at sea dropped 55 per cent in 2021, the Gulf of Guinea continued to account for all kidnapping incidents globally, with 57 crew taken in seven separate incidents.

Howlett noted that although, IMB also recorded 35 incidents against vessels navigating the Singapore Straits, a 50 per cent increase from 2020 and the highest number of reported incidents since 1992. Vessels were boarded in 33 of the 35 incidents.

He said IMB remains committed to actively engaging and exchanging information with coastal states to promote safety for seafarers and trade.

While attributing the drop in incidents to action taken by authorities, IMB further called for continued coordination and vigilance to ensure the long-term protection of seafarers.

“While the IMB applauds these actions it further calls on the coastal states of the Gulf of Guinea to increase their collaboration and physical presence in their waters to ensure a long term and sustainable solution to address the crime of piracy and armed robbery in the region,” Howlett said.
The IMB further urged crews to remain cautious and said the violent gangs continue to pose a high risk.

“While the overall reduction in globally reported incidents is welcomed, the IMB piracy reporting centre urges coastal states to acknowledge the inherent risk from piracy and armed robbery and robustly address this crime within the waters of their exclusive economic zone,” IMB Director Michael Howlett said.

He also added that the European Union (EU) has announced funding for a £1.3 million ($1.72m) training programme to improve the safety of vessels in the Gulf of Guinea.