Pre-emptive strikes by international navies and the presence of private armed guards on board ships nearly halved the number of hijackings by Somali pirates in 2011, said the International Maritime Bureau.
Somali pirates hijacked 28 ships last year compared with 49 in 2010, even as the number of attacks grew to 237 from 219 in the previous year, the maritime watchdog said.
“Pre-emptive naval strikes, the hardening of vessels in line with the best management practices and the deterrent effect of privately contracted armed security personnel have all contributed to this decrease,” said IMB director Pottengal Mukundan.
“The overall figures for Somali piracy could have been a lot higher if it were not for the continued efforts of international naval forces patrolling and responding to the threat.”
Pre-emptive strikes by naval forces disrupted at least 20 gangs of pirates before they could become a threat to commercial fleets, according to the IMB report.
The IMB’s tracking unit in Kuala Lumpur logged 439 piracy incidents in 2011 against 445 in 2010, ending a four-year trend of rising attacks. A total of 802 crew members were taken hostage compared with 1,181 in the previous year. Eight crew members were killed in 2011, unchanged from 2010.
Somali pirates still account for 54 percent of attacks worldwide, according to the London-based IMB. The last quarter of 2011 saw 31 incidents and four vessels hijacked, compared to 90 attacks and 19 hijackings in the same period in 2010.
West Africa remains a piracy hotspot, particularly Nigeria and Benin, the IMB said. While 10 attacks were reported in Nigeria, including two hijackings, the number is “not representative of the real threat of Nigeria.”
“Under reporting of attacks in Nigeria continues to be a cause for concern, and IMB states that it is aware of at least another 34 unreported incidents in Nigerian waters.”
In neighboring Benin there were 20 incidents involving tankers, eight of which were hijacked and had cargoes partly stolen. While the average length of captivity of ships attacked off Benin and Nigeria is around 10 days compared to six months in Somali hijackings, these attacks can be more violent, the IMB warned.
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