UNTERFÖHRING (dpa-AFX) - The number of shipwrecks worldwide has fallen to a record low, according to figures from Allianz. Last year, only 26 large ships sank worldwide. That was a good third fewer than in the previous year, and in a ten-year comparison a fall of over 70 percent, as the industrial insurer Allianz Commercial writes in the new edition of its annual report on shipping risks published on Wednesday. However, in addition to current wars and conflicts, another old danger threatens ships and their crews: Pirates.

According to Allianz, traffic on the world's oceans has become much safer in just a few decades: In the 1990s, more than 200 ships were still sinking on average each year.

In addition to storms and stranding on the coast, pirates are also one of the oldest risks to shipping, and piracy is making something of a comeback, according to Allianz: last year, there were 120 known pirate attacks worldwide, five more than in 2022. According to Allianz Commercial, the most dangerous region in this respect is the Gulf of Guinea on the coast of West Africa, followed by the Strait of Singapore in Southeast Asia.

However, the major concern is a resurgence of piracy in the Horn of Africa, according to the report. Somali pirates hijacked a ship there in December 2023 for the first time since 2017, and there have been several more attacks since then.

According to the company's shipping experts, the inspiration for Somali pirates is presumably the many attacks by Islamist Houthi militias on merchant ships in the Red Sea in the wake of the Gaza war. Wars such as those in Gaza and Ukraine also have an indirect impact on the safety of shipping by creating or facilitating consequential dangers.

As one example, the authors cite an international "shadow fleet" of an estimated 600 to 1400 oil tankers exporting Russian oil, which have so far been involved in at least 50 incidents, including fires, collisions and oil spills. "These are mostly older, poorly maintained ships that are operated outside international regulations and often without adequate insurance," said Justus Heinrich, Head of Marine Insurance in Germany and Switzerland at Allianz Commercial. "This poses serious environmental and safety risks."

The company is the subsidiary of the Munich-based Dax group responsible for industrial and corporate customers./cho/DP/zb