The number of pirate attacks on shipping worldwide declined by 18 percent in the first six months of 2010 despite the increased range and capabilities demonstrated by Somali pirates, according to a report issued Thursday by the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau.
A total of 196 incidents around the world were recorded by the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Center, compared to 240 incidents in the first half of 2009. This includes 31 vessels hijacked, 48 vessels fired upon and 70 vessels boarded.
During this period, one crew member was killed, 597 crew members were taken hostage and 16 were injured.
The IMB said the use of firearms, including rocket-propelled grenades, was particularly marked in the waters off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden. Attacks in this region and in the Red Sea represent more than half of the incidents reported over the past six months.
The coast of Somalia remains particularly vulnerable with 100 pirate attacks in 2010, including 27 hijackings. The number of attacks decreased compared to 2009 in the most dangerous maritime area of the world.
Actual attacks in the South China Sea more than doubled in 2010. Incidents in the waters of Malaysia and Indonesia have increased whereas only one attack was reported in the Singapore Straits and one in the Gulf of Thailand. Incidents in Nigerian waters also declined but remain stable on a six-month basis. Many attacks go unreported in this violent piracy hotspot.
The IMB report said Somali waters still pose the greatest threat to vessels: In 2009, pirate activity in the region accounted for more than half of all acts reported during the year. While attacks off the Somali coast remain considerable, these have moved progressively from the Gulf of Aden towards the east coast; a rising number of high sea incidents have also been reported in the Indian Ocean.
Attacks originating on the Somali coast are predominantly dependent on mother ships that enable small pirate boats to attack ships on the high seas, according to IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan. The mother ships and skiffs have been the target of navy vessels operating in the area.
“The actions of the navies in the Gulf of Aden have been instrumental in decreasing the number of attacks there,” said Capt. Mukundan. “The Indian Ocean poses a different challenge. Nevertheless, naval initiatives to target and disrupt pirate groups in the Indian Ocean should be applauded and sustained. It is vital that the naval presence continues. The other important factor in the number of attacks being brought down is the actions taken by vessels themselves and the adoption of the Best Management Practices put out by industry bodies and the naval co-ordination groups.”
Since October 2009, many reported attacks have occurred up to 1,000 nautical miles off Mogadishu, the Somali capital.
Attempted attacks in the Southern Red Sea represent a new area of activity for Somali pirates. “The commencement of the southwest monsoon has impacted upon their area of operations resulting in increased attacks taking place in the southern part of the Red Sea, an area not directly affected by the monsoons.
-- Contact Peter T. Leach at email@example.com.