Op Atalanta

Dangerous waters

Piracy remains a virulent problem for commercial shipping; but the hot spots have shifted. A look at sea regions were utmost caution is advisable today.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) of the International Chamber Of Commerce (ICC) has reported an increase of pirate attacks and armed robberies at sea. 195 incidents were counted in 2020, 33 more than the previous year. Three vessels were captured, 11 were shot at, 20 attempted attacks were beaten back successfully, and 161 ships were boarded by aggressors.

The increase is mainly due to rising numbers of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea and of armed robberies in the Strait of Singapore. A total of 130 crew members were kidnapped from ships off the West African coast. "We remain concerned that this region has recorded an unprecedented rise in crew kidnaps," said Michael Howlett, Director of the IMB. Howlett will further explain the urgency of the current threat situation at MS&D, the International Conference on Maritime Security and Defence, on 4 February.

Shifted zone of danger

It used to be primarily Somali pirates threatening shipping lanes near the Horn of Africa. They continue hijacking ships to hold crews, the ships themselves or their cargo to ransom. While the number of attacks dropped significantly last year, the danger is far from over. Merchant ships are regularly escorted by EU naval units within the scope of the Atalanta antipiracy mission, or carry armed security teams on board while travelling on high-risk routes.

The issue on Africa's west coast: Several nations, such as Nigeria, prohibit private security personnel on cargo ships crossing the nation’s territorial waters. "For years the shipping industry has been demanding that coastal states do more to combat piracy sustainably in their waters. But obviously these countries are either unwilling or unable to do so," says Ralf Nagel, Managing Board Member of the German Shipowners Association (VDR). He sees a clear mandate for governments to take action. "The European Union must do everything in its power to resolve this issue with the coastal countries. Otherwise we are directly headed towards a dramatic situation for German and international shipping, similar to what we experienced near the Horn of Africa."

MS&D will take place on 4 and 5 February during SMM DIGITAL.

Participation is free of charge, and no registration is required.

For information on the conference programme go here


Op Atalanta