Record Breaking Figures

Pirates claimed a record number of hostages at sea last year, with the vast majority of hijack incidents taking place off the coast of Somalia.

The London-based International Maritime Bureau reported this week that pirates captured 1,181 people and killed eight hostages in 2010. Fifty-three ships were hijacked and there were 445 reported attacks — a 10 per cent increase from previous year.

“These figures for the number of hostages and vessels taken are the highest we have ever seen,” said Capt. Pottengal Mukundan of the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre, in a statement accompanying Monday’s release of the 2010 figures.

“The continued increase in these numbers is alarming.”

Pirates based in Somalia remained the key danger for seafarers last year, with all but four global hijackings taking place off the Eastern African country’s coast.

More than half of the ships taken over by Somali pirates remained under their control at the end of the year.

Mukundan said that attacks in the Gulf of Aden decreased by half last year — dropping from 117 the year before down to 53 in 2010 — as foreign navies deterred attacks on private ships by Somali pirates.

“The naval units in the seas off the Horn of Africa should be applauded for preventing a huge number of piracy attacks in the region,” said Mukundan. “The continued presence of international navies is vital in protecting merchant ships along these important trade routes.”

However, Somali pirates simply moved their attacks further afield, which allowed them to continue to hijack ships and take hostages elsewhere.

Mukundan said that the United Nations and foreign governments must “devote resources to developing workable administrative infrastructures to prevent criminals from exploiting the vacuum left from years of failed local government.”

He added that “all measures taken at sea to limit the activities of the pirates are undermined because of a lack of responsible authority back in Somalia from where the pirates begin their voyages and return with hijacked vessels.”

Outside of Somalia, ships found themselves under attack in areas near Nigeria, Bangladesh, Indonesia and in the South China Seas.

Thirteen vessels were boarded near Nigeria last year, while four vessels were shot at. There were two attempted attacks that were also reported to authorities.

In Bangladesh, 21 vessels were boarded, and almost all attacks took place near the port of Chittagong, southeast of the capital of Dhaka.

Thirty vessels were boarded near Indonesia and one was hijacked. Nine attacks were reportedly thwarted.

Twenty-one ships were boarded in the South China Seas, while one was hijacked and two were fired upon. Seven other attacks were attempted.


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