Ship hijackings reached a five-year high in the first nine months of 2010 as Somali pirates launched attacks farther from shore to avoid warship patrols, the International Maritime Bureau said.
The IMB's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur recorded 39 hijackings worldwide from January to September compared with 34 in the year-earlier period.
The total number of piracy incidents, including ship boardings, declined to 289 from 306 in the first nine months of the year.
Piracy news from JOC:
Somali Pirates Hijack Japanese Breakbulk Ship.
Somali pirates carried out 35 of the 39 hijackings and were responsible for 44 percent of all incidents.
"Navies from around the world helped prevent numerous attacks off the Horn of Africa, where their presence is vital in protecting merchant shipping against piracy," the London-based IMB said.
The strong naval presence reduced the number of attacks in the Gulf of Aden to 44, compared with 100 in the first nine months of 2009.
"However, this is a vast area and the navies cannot realistically cover it," said IMB director Capt. Pottengal Mukundan. "The naval presence does, however, remain vital to the control of piracy in this area."
The naval patrols have forced Somali pirates to attack ships farther from the nation's coast, using oceangoing fishing vessels to reach as far as the southern Red Sea, where they attacked a 13,000-deadweight-ton chemical tanker in July, the first such hijacking recorded in the area.
The IMB highlighted the South China Sea area because of increased piracy, with 30 ships attacked. Of them, 21 were successfully boarded this year, a threefold rise on the 2009 period.
"The pirates in this area use almost identical methods of attack, suggesting that a small number of groups is responsible," Mukundan said.
"The fact that vulnerable vessels are boarded whilst steaming is a matter of concern."
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