Pirate attacks at 27-year low in 2021: Watchdog

The Gulf of Guinea has in recent years eclipsed the Gulf of Aden, off Somalia, as Africa's piracy hot spot. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Pirate attacks on ships fell to their lowest level in nearly three decades last year, driven by a steep decrease off West Africa, a maritime watchdog said on Thursday (Jan 13).

A total of 132 incidents of piracy and armed robbery were reported worldwide, the lowest recorded figure since 1994, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in its annual report.

There was a marked fall in the Gulf of Guinea off West Africa, with just 34 reported incidents in 2021 compared with 81 the previous year, the watchdog said.

The gulf stretches thousands of kilometres from Angola in the south to Senegal in the north, and its waters are considered among the world's most dangerous for piracy.

IMB director Michael Howlett praised 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".

But he also called on countries in the region to step up efforts to "ensure a long-term and sustainable solution".

While attacks fell, the Gulf of Guinea still accounted for all kidnappings globally, with 57 crew members snatched, the watchdog said.

The Gulf of Guinea has in recent years eclipsed the Gulf of Aden, off Somalia, as Africa's piracy hotspot.

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea - home to Sub-Saharan Africa's two main oil producers, Nigeria and Angola - has seriously disrupted international shipping routes and cost the global economy billions of dollars.

Elsewhere, there was a 50 per cent increase in attacks last year in the Singapore Strait compared to 2020, with reported incidents hitting 35, the highest level since 1992, the IMB said.

Most of the incidents were opportunistic thefts.

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