Cornered 35 pirates surrender after Indian Navy frees hijacked ship Ruen

Piracy incidents rise raises serious concerns for more attacks on shipping after the latest piracy incident being carried out by several groups of pirates now stalking the Indian Ocean in hijacked ‘motherships’.

A total of thirty-three incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were recorded in the first three months of 2024, an increase from 27 incidents for the same period in 2023, according to the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) which raises concerns on the continued acts of maritime piracy off the coast of Somalia.

Of the 33 incidents reported, 24 vessels were boarded, six had attempted attacks, two were hijacked and one was fired upon, says the ICC in its first quarter report for 2024.

Violence towards crew continues with 35 crew members taken hostage, nine kidnapped and one threatened.

The report highlights a worrying trend of Somali pirate activity with two reported hijackings and pirates demonstrated an increased ability to target vessels at greater distances from the Somali coast.

One notable incident involved a Bangladesh flagged bulk carrier which was hijacked on 12 March and its 23 crew were taken hostage by over 20 Somali pirates. The vessel was underway approximately 550 nautical miles (nm) from Mogadishu while enroute from Mozambique to the United Arab Emirates.

“The resurgence of Somali pirate activity is worrying, and now more than ever it is crucial to protect trade, safeguard routes, and the safety of seafarers who keep commerce moving,” said ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton.

IMB has commended the timely and positive actions from authorities ensuring the release and safety of the crew.

As it is reported, a 40-hour operation by the Indian navy in the Indian Ocean on 15 March 2024 culminated in the capture of 35 Somali pirates and the release of a previously hijacked vessel and its 17 crew.

A bulk carrier boarded by pirates on 4 January over 450 nm off the east coast of Somalia was rendered safe along with its 21 crew members by an Indian naval vessel.

In late January, the Seychelles coast guard intervened to safeguard a hijacked fishing vessel and its six crew. Three suspected Somali pirates were apprehended in this operation.

Meanwhile, incidents within the Gulf of Guinea waters continue to be at a reduced level. Six incidents were reported in the first quarter of 2024 compared to five in the same period of 2023. The IMB urges continued caution as nine crew were kidnapped from a product tanker on 1 January 2024 around 45nm south of Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea.

There has been a noticeable increase in reported low-level opportunistic crimes in Bangladeshi waters in 2024 with seven reported incidents received – six from vessels at anchorage in Chattogram – compared to one report for the whole of 2023.

The Singapore Straits recorded five incidents against four large bulk carriers and a general cargo vessel, considered low-level opportunistic incidents. But the threat for crew safety remains high as five crew were taken hostage in three separate incidents in January, as ICC reminds.