Piracy Incidents Decline, But Horizon Isn’t Clear

Maritime piracy in the first half of 2022 is at its lowest level since 1994, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) says, with 58 incidents, down from 68 for the same period last year. Nevertheless, the organization cautions against complacency.

For the full year 2020, IMB listed 195 actual and attempted attacks, up from 162 in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic may have played a role in that rise in pirate activity – as it is tied to underlying social, political, and economic problems – and 2022 may represent the start of a return of a downward trend.

Source: International Chamber of Commerce/International Maritime Bureau (IMB)

Many people outside the maritime and insurance industries don’t realize that piracy remains a costly peril in the 21st century. Global insurer Zurich estimates the annual cost of piracy to the global economy at $12 billion a year.  In its 2022 Safety and Shipping Review, global insurer Allianz reports that piracy comes behind machinery damage or failure, collision, and contact, in terms of number of loss-causing incidents globally – and that total losses have fallen 57 percent over the past decade.

However, the shipping industry is vulnerable to disruptions and, as Allianz points out, has been affected on multiple fronts by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: from loss of life and vessels in the Black Sea and disrupted trade to challenges to day-to-day operations that affect crews, cost and availability of fuel, and the growing for cyber risk.

“To date, the biggest impact has been on vessels operating in the Black Sea and/or trading with Russia,” Allianz says. “At the start of the conflict, approximately 2,000 seafarers were stranded aboard vessels in Ukranian ports. Trapped crews faced the constant threat of attacks, with little access to food or medical supplies, and a number have been killed.”

According to a recent industry survey, Allianz says, 44 percent of maritime professionals reported that their organization has been the subject of a cyber-attack in the last three years. Accumulations of cargo exposures at mega ports have been rising – and, with ports increasingly reliant on technology, an outage or cyber-attack could effectively close a port.

In February 2022, India’s busiest container port was hit by a ransomware attack, following incidents at U.S. and South African ports in recent years.

A third of organizations surveyed by Allianz said they don’t conduct regular cyber security training or have a cyber-response plan.

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