Piracy cases double in first quarter of 2009

Kuala Lumpur, April 21 (Inditop) An international piracy watchdog Tuesday warned of increasing violent pirate attacks in the troubled Gulf of Aden off Somalia, as worldwide pirate attacks rose by almost 100 percent for the first three months of this year compared to 2008.

The London-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said 102 pirate attacks were reported from January to March, compared to 53 in the same period last year.

Attacks in the pirate-infested waters off the Gulf of Aden and the east coast of Somalia made up half of the total number of attacks with 61 cases, the bureau said in its quarterly report released in Kuala Lumpur.

The number is an alarming rise from only six incidents in these areas last year, it said.

Nigeria and Peru recorded the second highest number of attacks with seven cases each in the first quarter, followed by four attacks in the waters off Vietnam.

A total of 34 vessels were boarded, 29 were fired upon and nine vessels hijacked in the first three months of 2009.

Pirates took 178 crew members hostage, with nine sustaining injuries, five kidnapped and two killed, the IMB said.

The bureau warned that violent attacks were on the rise, with pirates being reported to be armed with increasingly dangerous weapons.

The agency also hailed ongoing “vigilance and patrolling” efforts by Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia in safeguarding the Malacca Strait, where only one incident was recorded in the first three months of 2009.

The bureau also urged governments to increase security efforts in their waters, following the global economic crisis which could result in more pirate activities.

“Navies and coastguards must continue to maintain their physical presence,” the bureau said in its report.