Piracy at record high
Piracy at sea hit an all-time high in the first three months of 2011, with 142 attacks worldwide, said the International Maritime Bureau Thursday.
The sharp rise was driven by a surge in piracy off the coast of Somalia, where 97 attacks were recorded in the first quarter, up from 35 in the same period of 2010.
Worldwide in the first quarter of 2011, 18 vessels were hijacked, 344 crewmembers were taken hostage, and six were kidnapped, IMB reported. A further 45 vessels were boarded, and 45 more reported being fired upon.
“Figures for piracy and armed robbery at sea in the past three months are higher than we’ve ever recorded in the first quarter of any past year,” said Pottengal Mukundan, director of IMB, whose Piracy Reporting Center has monitored piracy worldwide since 1991.
In the first three months of 2011, pirates murdered seven crewmembers and injured 34. Just two injuries were reported in the first quarter of 2006.
“We’re seeing a dramatic increase in the violence and techniques used by pirates in the seas off Somalia,” Mukundan said.
“The overwhelming number of vessels hijacked off Somalia took place east and northeast of the Gulf of Aden,” he said. “The positions of some of the attackers’ mother ships are known. It is vital that strong action is taken against these mother ships to prevent further hijackings.”
Large tankers carrying oil and other flammable chemicals are particularly vulnerable to firearm attack. Mukundan said: “Three big tankers of over 100,000 tons deadweight have been hijacked off the Horn of Africa this year. Of a total of 97 vessels attacked in the region, 37 were tankers and of these, 20 had a deadweight of more than 100,000 tons.”