Tags: piracy | Africa | Somalia | highs

Africa Leads Global Piracy to New Highs

Thursday, 14 January 2010 11:26 AM

KUALA LUMPUR — Piracy on the high seas rose to its highest level in six years in 2009, with attacks becoming more frequent and more violent across the globe, a maritime watchdog said Thursday.

There were 406 reported incidents of piracy and high-seas armed robbery in 2009, up from 293 the previous year, but below the figure of 445 in 2003, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in a report.

"Our hope is that this escalating volume of piracy is met with a heightened response from the governments and their agencies best able to reduce and contain these risks to human life and property," IMB director Pottengal Mukundan said.

The IMB said its piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur received reports of 49 vessels being hijacked last year, 84 attempted attacks and 120 vessels that were fired upon.

A total of 1,052 crew members were taken hostage, 68 injured and eight killed in 2009, it said.

"Increases in the frequency and level of violence perpetrated against ships at sea and the people who work them is a serious concern," Mukundan said.

The watchdog said pirate attacks rose in almost all regions.

Off the coast of lawless Somalia the number of cases nearly doubled last year at 217 incidents, with 47 vessels hijacked and 867 crew members taken hostage.

However, the IMB said the number of successful hijackings off Somalia was proportionately lower, attributing the decline to the increased presence and coordination of international navies.

It warned that pirates have shifted their focus from the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest maritime trade routes and the main target of attacks in 2008, to the East Coast of Somalia.

The watchdog said other African waters also remain "very dangerous" with 28 incidents reported in Nigerian waters which "are frequently much more violent in nature than those in Somalia".

The South China Seas have also seen a rise in attacks, with 13 cases last year, the highest in five years.

Piracy is also on the rise in South America with 37 incidents reported, up from 14 in 2008.

Attacks in the Malacca Strait, which just a few years ago was a world piracy hotspot, remained at just two in 2009, the same as the previous year, the IMB said.

Large-scale coordinated patrols involving Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have deterred attacks in the area.

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Thursday, 14 January 2010 11:26 AM
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