Piracy attacks on ships soar
The number of pirate attacks increased to 445 incidents reported worldwide last year, compared with 370 in 2002, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) of the International Chamber of Commerce reported.
This was the second-highest number of attacks since the IMB’s piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur started compiling statistics in 1991. The highest number reported was 469 in 2000.
The bureau said 21 seafarers were known to have been killed last year, compared with 10 in 2002, and 71 crew and passengers were listed as missing.
Attacks in the Malacca Straits in Southeast Asia were up from 16 to 28. But the IMB reported that almost all of these incidents were in Indonesian waters of the Straits, and no attacks were reported in Malaysian waters during the last six months of the year.
The fall in attacks in Malaysian waters is due to “vigilant patrols and constant operations by the relevant Malaysian authorities, particularly the Royal Malaysian Marine Police,” said Capt. Pottengal Mukundan, IMB director.
“The Malaysian success proves once again that when law enforcement agencies take these attacks seriously there will be a corresponding reduction in attacks,” he said. “We call upon countries with piracy problems to give greater priority to policing their waters.
Attacks are becoming more violent. The number of attacks using guns rose to 100 last year from 68 in 2002, and hostages taken nearly doubled to 359 seafarers. In 311 instances ships were boarded and 19 ships were hijacked.
Indonesian waters saw the most reported incidents in 2003 with 121, followed by Bangladesh with 58 and Nigeria — now the most dangerous country for piracy in Africa — with 39.
Attacks on tankers rose to 22 percent of the total, and there was an increase in reports of coordinated attacks involving several boats at once, especially in Indonesian waters of the Malacca Strait and around Bintan Island, the IMB said. The attackers approach a target ship from different directions and spray the superstructure with gunfire to get it to stop, the bureau said.