Shipping Lanes on Alert: Rising Cargo Ship Hijackings Threaten Global Trade

   Two recent cargo ship hijackings have alarmed the world’s shipping industry, as piracy poses a “potential” danger that will have “serious” consequences for global trade. On November 19, the cargo ship “Galaxy Leader” was hijacked in the Red Sea, which sounded the alarm for people. The Israeli cargo ship chartered by a Japanese company was hijacked by the Iran-backed Houthi group in waters off Yemen during the conflict between Israel and Hamas. On the evening of November 26, a group of attackers boarded the Liberian-flagged cargo ship “Central Park” in the Gulf of Aden with the intention of hijacking the ship. A day later, the USS Mason prevented the hijacking.
   According to data from the International Maritime Bureau, a subsidiary of the International Chamber of Commerce, 115 maritime piracy incidents occurred in 2022, a decrease of 12.8% from 132 incidents in 2021. The hijacking locations are mainly in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Guinea. In addition, 95% of maritime piracy is boarding and robbery. While the decline reflects a lull in piracy in the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman, U.S.-Iran tensions and restrictions on Iranian oil trade, coupled with the ongoing Israeli-Hamas war The outbreak has led to an increase in the number of hijacking incidents.
   The International Maritime Bureau’s latest report on conditions from January to September 2023 shows an increase in incidents of piracy and armed robbery. A total of 99 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships occurred during this period, compared with 90 incidents in the same period in 2022. This year, 85 ships were forcibly boarded, 9 ships suffered attempted attacks, 3 ships were hijacked, and 2 ships were shot at. Criminals successfully boarded 89% of the ships attacked, with most incidents occurring at night.
   A report by the International Maritime Bureau shows that the area most prone to piracy and hijacking is Southeast Asia, especially the Singapore Strait. Other areas of concern include South and Central America and the waters around Nigeria, Ghana and Angola. Experts believe that piracy will continue to occur, mainly involving ships “with ties to Israel.” The hijackers have proven their capabilities and hope to attract international media attention. They obtain information on Israeli ships. They know what they are doing. The targets would be ships with ties to Israel and therefore still very easy to track.
   According to a report released by the United States’ Common Earth Future Foundation, pirates cause losses to the global economy of US$7 billion to US$12 billion every year. The report shows that specifically, Somali pirates are responsible for 95% of the losses, with the remaining 5% caused by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, Southwest Africa and the Strait of Malacca in Southeast Asia.

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