Typically, pirates will try to hijack the vessels under attack and take the crews hostage or steal the cargo. After peaking in 2010 and 2011, global attempted and actual attacks reached a record low in 2019. However, recent figures suggest that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic might lead to an increase in pirate activity in the coming months. As of May 2020, a 24% year-on-year increase in the global number of attacks and attempted attacks has been recorded, as weak economic conditions have left governments with fewer resources to battle piracy. The Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of Guinea were particularly affected by this new wave of attacks.
Indeed, over the past few years, piracy has been increasing off the coasts of South America as well as West Africa, while Somali piracy decreased considerably after peaking in 2017. In West Africa, militant groups see piracy as a way to raise money for their activities, often attacking tankers to sell oil on the black market. Ultimately, weak governments and economies, combined with easy access to weapons, allow piracy to spread.