World pirate attacks doubled during Jan-Jun

World pirate attacks doubled during Jan-Jun

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Pirate attacks worldwide at least doubled in the first half of 2009 amid a surge of raids on vessels in the Gulf of Aden and the east coast of Somalia, an international maritime watchdog said on Wednesday.

The number of attacks rose to 240 between January and June, up from 114 incidents in the same period a year ago, according to a report released by the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur.

Ships were boarded in 78 cases and 31 vessels were hijacked, with 561 crew taken hostage, 19 injured and six killed, the bureau said in its quarterly report. The attackers were heavily armed with guns or knives in most of the cases, it said.

The higher attacks were due mainly to increased Somali pirate activity off the Gulf of Aden and east coast of Somalia, which combined accounts for 130 of the cases, the report said.

Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991 when the overthrow of a dictatorship plunged the country into a chaos. Besides frequent land battles, the power vacuum has also allowed pirates to operate freely around Somalia’s 3,060km coastline.

The International Maritime Bureau has said Somali attacks peaked in March and April, with no attacks recorded in June. The recent decline was largely because of monsoon-related poor weather that is expected to continue through August, the report said. “Vigilance should nevertheless remain high during this period," the centre said.