Piracy attacks down in 2021, caution still high

Number of attacks are down, but seafarers and managers warned to remain vigilant of risks

by Evangeline Austria

Piracy attacks against vessels reached a five year low in 2021 according to the latest annual report of ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB). Published this week, it counts 132 attempted and actual attacks last year. This is the lowest recorded data since 1994 when there were 188 cases.


Last year’s incidents  are recorded as: 115 vessels boarded, 11 attempted attacks, 5 vessels fired upon and 1 vessel hijacked. Previous years of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 recorded 180, 201, 162, and 195 cases respectively..


But despite the significant decline of cases for violence against seafarers over the past year, the ICC IMB authorities strongly urged seafarers to remain vigilant against possible pirate attacks. According to IMB director Mr. Michael Howlett, “While the overall reduction in globally reported incidents is welcomed, the IMB Piracy Reporting Center 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. The IMB Piracy Reporting Center remains committed to actively engage and exchange information with coastal states to promote safety for seafarers and trade.” 


The threat to seafarers lingers even when numbers are decreasing. They are continuously advised to be cautious as the criminals remain violent and risk to crews remains high.


A (re-)new piracy hotspot?


Fifty-six (56) attacks in South East Asia contributed 42% of the total 132 incidents reported from January-December 2021. Most of these took place in the Singapore Strait where 33 of the 35 incidents were confirmed to have been boarded by pirates. A sudden rise in pirate attacks in Singapore Strait was indicated in a General Warning issued on December 2019. Other areas include: Philippines (9), Indonesia (9), Malaysia (2), and Malacca Straits (1). Most of these incidents were considered and reported as opportunistic thefts. There were no reported casualties in these attacks.

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