First quarter piracy attacks fall
Piracy attacks worldwide dropped by a third in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period in 2009, according to the latest statistics from the Kuala Lumpur-based International Maritime Bureau.
But even as it noted this decline, new attacks were being reported in the Gulf of Aden involving a Greek bulk carrier off the coast of Oman and Thai fishing vessels in the Indian Ocean, while a general cargo vessel was attacked in Indonesia.
During the three month period from January to March some 67 piracy incidents worldwide were reported to the IMB, down from 102 a year earlier. In 2009 the IMB recorded a total of 406 piracy attacks, the highest for six years.
According to the IMB figures, 26 vessels were boarded by pirates in the first quarter, 18 ships were fired on, 11 ships hijacked and 194 crew members taken hostage.
More than half this year"s attacks took place in the area off Somalia, including 18 in the areas off the east and south coast of Somalia, slightly down on the 21 during the same period in 2009.
But there was a big fall in incidents in the Gulf of Aden, down from 41 last year to 17 this year. It attributes this fall to the ?presence and success of navies in the Gulf of Aden along with the robust anti-piracy measures adopted by the merchant navy fleet?.
As the IMB issued its report there was another confirmed attack in the Gulf of Aden on a Greek-owned bulk carrier, the Panama-flagged VOC Daisy, with 21 Filipino crew members onboard.
The 47,183dwt vessel, owned by JP Samartzis Maritime Enterprises, had sailed from the port of Ruwais in the United Arab Emirates and was heading towards the Suez Canal. It was intending to use the International Recommended Transit Corridor, but was attacked 280 miles from the IRTC, some 190 miles south east of Salalah in Oman.
EU Navfor said the vessel raised the alarm before four pirates armed with AK47s and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher cut its communication links. All 21 crew members were reported to be safe.
There were also reported hijackings in the Indian Ocean on three Thai fishing vessels with their total 77 crew being taken hostage.
The IMB warned that despite the recent decline in the number of attacks, Somali pirates are expanding the range of their activity to the coasts off Kenya, Tanzania, Seychelles, Madagascar and Oman.
IMB director Pottengal Mukundan said that attacks from the Somali coast are only possible due to the use of motherships as a base for smaller boats or skiffs.
?Positive and robust action by the navies against mother ships, pirate skiffs and pirate action groups have been vital to keeping the attacks under control and must be sustained,? Capt Mukundan said.
Although most current attention is focused on Somali pirates, attacks are still continuing elsewhere. For example, there were eight piracy incidents off Indonesia in the first three months of this year, compared with just one in the same period last year. It is the highest quarterly figure for two years, though the IMB said that most were relatively low level attacks against vessels berthed or at anchor and the number of serious incidents has been declining since 2003.
Nevertheless, this week the IMB reported an attack on a vessel in the Tanjung Priok anchorage in Indonesia where four robbers wielding knives boarded a general cargo vessel and escaped with ship"s equipment.
In other areas notorious for attacks on commercial vessels, two incidents were reported in Nigeria and one off the coast of Bangladesh during the first three months of this year, but none in the Malacca and Singapore Straits.