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Somali Pirates In Retreat

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

25 October 2012

The number of ships reporting attacks by Somali pirates has fallen this year to its lowest level since 2009, a report from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) shows.

In the first nine months of 2012, there were 70 Somali attacks compared with 199 for the corresponding period in 2011. From July to September, just one ship reported an attempted attack by Somali pirates, compared with 36 incidents in the same three months last year. The drop in Somali piracy has brought global figures for piracy and armed robbery at sea down to 233 incidents this year - the lowest third quarter total since 2008.

Worldwide this year, pirates have killed at least six crew and taken 448 seafarers hostage. The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre recorded that 125 vessels were boarded, 24 were hijacked and 26 were fired upon. In addition, 58 attempted attacks were reported.

The IMB said that the fall had come as a result of the efforts of international navies but also new rules permitting the use of armed personnel onboard vessels.

“We welcome the successful robust targeting of Pirate Action Groups by international navies in the high risk waters off Somalia, ensuring these criminals are removed before they can threaten ships," said Captain Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the IMB, a membership organization that has monitored world piracy since 1991. “It’s good news that hijackings are down, but there can be no room for complacency; these waters are still extremely high-risk and the naval presence must be maintained.”

The IMB has warned seafarers to remain particularly vigilant in the high-risk waters around Somalia, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. In addition, violent attacks and hijackings are spreading in the Gulf of Guinea, it said.

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is becoming increasingly dangerous (34 incidents from January to September 2012, up from 30 last year) and has pushed westward from Benin to neighbouring Togo. The IMB said attacks are often violent, planned and aimed at stealing refined oil products which can be easily sold on the open market. To cover their tracks once the vessel is hijacked, pirates damage the communication equipment and at times even the navigation equipment.

Togo reported more attacks this year than in the previous five years combined, with three vessels hijacked, two boarded and six reporting attempted attacks. Off Benin, one ship was hijacked and one boarded. 21 attacks occurred in Nigerian waters, with nine vessels boarded, four hijacked, seven fired upon and one attempted attack.

Risks are not limited to waters around Africa however, the IMB warned. The agency has reported a significant rise in opportunistic thefts taking place in Indonesia onboard vessels at anchor. Indonesia recorded 51 incidents in the first nine months of 2012, up from a 2011 total of 46. Elsewhere in South East Asia, ships have been hijacked this year in the Malacca Straits, South China Seas and around Malaysia. The IMB warned that these waters are still not entirely free of piracy or armed robbery and vessels should remain vigilant and alert.

TAGS: marine

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