What Are High-Risk Areas for Maritime Piracy?

The thought that pirate attacks still occur frequently in our modern society is shocking; however, for those in maritime industries, pirate attacks are a serious, troublesome reality. While worldwide efforts have been successful in reducing the frequency of such attacks, piracy attempts are still made—more in some parts of the world than others.

The ICC International Maritime Bureau offers in-depth statistics on maritime piracy across the planet in its 2022 report: Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships. An analysis of this report allows us to draw insight into the high-risk areas for piracy.

The Surge & Decline of Maritime Pirate Attacks from 2018-2022

Over the past five years, maritime piracy has continued to be a pressing concern for several regions across the globe. Here, we will trace the trajectory of this maritime threat, exploring the highs, the lows, and the regions that have become hotspots for pirate activity.

Southeast Asia's Seascape

Historically known for bustling trade routes, Southeast Asia has also witnessed pockets of piracy. Indonesia started the 5-year span with a high of 36 attacks in 2018, but by 2022, the number had dwindled to 10. This decline could be attributed to increased patrolling or the pirates shifting their focus. Malaysia and the Philippines too, while fluctuating, didn't show alarming spikes.

However, the Singapore Straits raised eyebrows. From a modest three incidents in 2018, it surged to 38 in 2022, indicating a shifting epicenter of pirate activity in the region.

East Asia’s Calmer Waters

In contrast, East Asia portrayed a quieter picture. China, with 6 incidents spread across 2018 and 2019, and Vietnam, with sporadic occurrences, didn’t exhibit any alarming trend.

The Indian Subcontinent: A Mixed Bag

Diving into the Indian Subcontinent, Bangladesh emerged with fluctuating numbers, its highest being 12 attacks in 2018. Meanwhile, India showed a general decreasing trend, suggesting effective countermeasures against piracy.

South America: Venezuela's Volatility

South America's coastline offered a patchwork of incidents. Most nations, from Brazil to Mexico, experienced sporadic and relatively low pirate attacks. Yet, Venezuela stood out. With a high of 11 incidents in 2018, there was an initial concern, but this trend tapered off in subsequent years.

Africa's Tumultuous Tide

On the issue of modern-day maritime piracy, no region is more feared and scrutinized than the seas of West Africa. Pirate attacks in these regions have historically been more violent. Although the waters are in constant danger, attacks have decreased significantly. Ever since the notorious attack of the Maersk Alabama, captained by the surviving hostage Richard Phillips off the coast of Somalia in April 2009, attempts to hijack vessels have become less frequent. According to estimates, there were 445 pirate attacks in 2010 and 143 in 2013—demonstrating the success of patrol and enforcement efforts.

Over the past five years, Africa, with its vast coastline, showcased a diverse trend. Nigeria took the limelight with 48 attacks in 2018, although this number saw a sharp decline to 6 by 2021. There were no reported pirate attacks in Nigeria in 2022. While nations like Angola and Ghana witnessed modest numbers, the overall trend indicated that several African nations remained vulnerable to pirate attacks.

The waters of West Africa and the Gulf of Aden are the most dangerous to travel for vessels carrying oil, equipment, and any valuable cargo. Unfortunately, it has taken several serious attacks for national and international authorities to recognize the real risk of pirate attacks in modern maritime operations. This realization has led to several successful anti-piracy efforts and an update in the detection and assessment of piracy risk.

Navigating High-Risk Areas for Maritime Piracy

In analyzing the past five years, two key facts are evident: pirate activity in Nigeria has diminished, but the Singapore Straits have emerged as the newest hotspot. Shipowners and operators must take special caution and utilize all countermeasures at their disposal to discourage and prevent pirate attacks on their vessels.

If you are a seaman injured in a pirate attack in foreign waters or lost a family member in an attack of this kind, you may be able to file a claim to seek compensation under the Jones Act, Death on the High Seas Act, or other applicable maritime law. A maritime piracy lawyer at Arnold & Itkin can review the circumstances surrounding the attack to determine what may have contributed to the incident and what party should be held liable for your medical care, lost earnings, and other damages or losses. With our understanding of national and international maritime law and our experience in this field, we are confident in our ability to properly handle your claim.

Contact a maritime attorney at our firm today to discuss your rights and options.

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