THE ICC International Maritime Bureau has reported an increase in maritime piracy in 2023, and the first successful Somali-based hijacking in years.

The IMB annual report recorded 120 incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery against ships in 2023, compared with 115 in 2022.

According to the latest report, 105 vessels were boarded, there were nine attempted attacks, four vessels hijacked and two fired upon.

IMB said the number of reported incidents increased slightly last year compared with 2022, but highlighted a jump in crew hostage and kidnapping situations.

“The IMB urges caution for crew safety as the number of crew taken hostage and kidnapped increased from 41 to 73 and from two to 14 in 2022 and 2023 respectively,” the bureau said.

A further 10 crew were threatened, four injured and one assaulted in 2023.

And on 14 December 2023 the IMB recorded the first successful hijacking of a vessel off the coast of Somalia since 2017.

Somali pirates allegedly boarded and hijacked a hanydmax bulk carrier around 700 nautical miles east of Bosaso in Somalia.

Reports also suggest two dhows (vessels with potential use as mother ships for further attacks) were subsequently hijacked.

“This is a cause for concern and the IMB is once again calling for all masters and vessel owners to continue following the recommendations and reporting procedures as per the latest version of the Best Management Practices,” IMB director Michael Howlett said.

Three of the four reported hijackings occurred in the Gulf of Guinea, the IMB report found.

It said despite the continued restraint in the number of reported incidents in the Gulf of Guinea, with 22 in 2023 compared to 19 in 2022, these waters accounted for three of the four globally reported hijackings, all 14 crew kidnappings, and 75% of reported crew hostages and two injured crew in 2023.

IMB also flagged concerns for seafarers in the Singapore Straits, Malacca Straits and Indonesian archipelago.

It said the Singapore Straits are considered low level opportunistic crimes, but 95% of reported incidents were successful, with 37 reported incidents overall in 2023 compared to 38 in 2022.

Nine crewmembers were taken hostage in the Singapore Straits and two were threatened. Guns were reported in three recorded incidents and knives in 15. 

“We are concerned due to the late reporting and under reporting by vessels. The IMB continues to encourage timely reporting of all incidents, as it contributes to a more accurate understanding of risk,” Mr Howlett said.

One crew member was injured and required medical attention after a bulk carrier was boarded in the Malacca Straits in October 2023.

The last reported incident of crew injured by pirates in the area was in 2015.

IMB observed a year-on-year increase in reported incidents in the Indonesian archipelago, up from 10 in 2022 to 18 in 2023.

Weapons were reported in 50% of the incidents. Seven crew were threatened and two taken hostage in 2023.

And threats are looming in South American waters, with fourteen incidents reported from vessels at Callao anchorage in Peru.

Seven crew were taken hostage and one each assaulted and threatened. Guns and knives were reported in nine incidents.

Other ports affected in South America were Macapa anchorage in Brazil, and Cartagena and Puerto Bolivar anchorages in Colombia.