• Says is highest in six years
• Blames Somali crises
• Notes Upsurge in Nigeria
Sea attacks worldwide surged 39 percent to 406 cases, the highest in six years, with Somali pirates’ raids on vessels accounting for more than half of the piracy, a maritime watchdog said Thursday.
It marked the third straight year of increases in attacks, the International Maritime Bureau said in a report from its piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Last year, 293 attacks were reported and the last time the figures exceeded 400 cases was in 2003.
Analysts blame Somalia’s nearly 20 years of lawlessness for fuelling piracy’s rise. The IMB said the attacks were opportunistic in nature, with pirates sometimes paid multi-million-dollar ransoms.
The report said Nigeria also remained dangerous, with 28 attacks.
The bureau said the international flotilla including US and European warships had prevented many hijackings. It said Somali pirates in the last quarter of 2009 shifted focus from the Gulf of Aden where international navies patrol to the vast unpatrolled east coast of Somalia where 33 attacks were reported since October and 13 ships seized.
“The international navies play a critical role in the prevention of piracy off Somalia and it is vital that they remain in the region,” IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan said.
Pirates hijacked 49 vessels worldwide and held 1,052 crew members for ransom last year, it said. The level of violence has increased with 120 vessels fired upon compared to 74 last year, eight crew members killed and 68 injured, the London-based bureau said.
Somali pirates were responsible for 217 of the global attacks, up nearly double from last year’s 111.
It said piracy was also on the rise in South America with 37 attacks, from 14 in 2008, with most cases occurring while vessels were berthed in port or at anchor.
Seafarers reported 17 attacks in Bangladesh and 13 in the South China Sea, the highest in five years, it said. There were nine attacks in the Singapore Straits, up from six in 2008.
Indonesia was a bright spot with only 15 attacks, down sharply from 28 in 2008. Two attacks were reported in the Malacca Straits, the same number as in 2008.