Incidents of piracy at ‘historically’ low level

Henry

Incidents of piracy still remain at a “historically low level” after only five fewer cases were reported last year compared to 2022.

This comes despite the recent upsurge of conflict in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

The maritime information cooperation and awareness (MICA) center in France says in its annual review of the state of affairs that a total of 295 incidents of piracy were recorded last year. These statistics have been falling since 2008.

Although slightly more cases were recorded in South East Asia, there were fewer incidents in the vicinity of the Caribbean Islands, therefore the number of incidents of piracy remains stable.

“Worldwide, we see that the number of incidents remains stable,” says Eric Jaslin, head of the MICA centre.

At the end of last year, there were several attacks on large cargo ships by Houthi terrorists from Yemen. The attacks were largely around the Bab-el-Mandeb strait where the Red Sea meets the Indian Ocean. About 12% of world trade moves through this area.

“There are big concerns about this part of the sea,” says Jaslin.

“The threat is large and violent as pirates are equipped with rockets and drones that carry bombs.”

Last year, a total of 47 attacks were recorded in this area, most of which were around Bab-el-Mandeb. Several incidents were also reported near the Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, and on the Indian coast.

The shipping magnate Maersk has already instructed all its ships to sail around Africa rather than use the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. This after many of its cargo ships were attacked by Houthi terrorists.

Maersk said the risk in the area remains high, therefore its ships will sail around the Cape of Good Hope for the “foreseeable future”.

One of the tycoon’s ships was hit by a rocket at the start of the new year when he was moving through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait. The vessel was then attacked by four ships operated by the Houthi terrorists.

The US military sank three of the ships, while one escaped.

A total of 12 countries, led by the USA, have already instructed Yemen to put an end to “these illegal attacks” and to release all the ships and crew that are being held illegally.

The countries have warned that there will be “consequences” for the Houthi terrorists if he does not comply with the request.

At least 20,000 ships pass through the Suez Canal annually. Ships have meanwhile been advised to turn off their automatic identification systems, which enable other ships to track them, by the time they reach Bab-el-Mandeb.

“This is not a guarantee for survival, but it certainly makes the enemy’s job more difficult,” says Jaslin.

Incidents of piracy were recorded off the coast of Somalia last year for the first time since 2017.

“Whether these are crimes of opportunity or an upsurge of a trend is too early to say.”

In the Gulf of Guinea, which until recently was considered one of the most dangerous areas for piracy, only seven ships were robbed in 2023, compared to 26 in 2019.

However, the number of kidnappings is on the rise again, with 18 people kidnapped last year compared to the two people in 2022. However, this is far less than the 146 people kidnapped at sea in 2019.

“There is always the possibility that it could become a trend again,” warns Jaslin.