Pirate attacks proliferate

Monday, 24 January 2011 00:26 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Seven-year high last year, mostly led by Somali gangs

Reuters: Pirate attacks on ships worldwide hit a seven year high in 2010 and a record number of crew were taken hostage, a maritime watchdog body said, despite increased patrolling of the seas.

Somalia remained the biggest problem with pirates operating off the country’s shore accounting for 49 of the 52 ships seized last year, an official at the reporting centre of the International Maritime Bureau in Kuala Lumpur said.

The London-headquartered IMB said 1,181 crew members were taken hostage, a record high since the bureau started monitoring piracy in 1991. “The continued increase in these numbers is alarming,” said Pottengal Mukundan, director of the piracy reporting centre.

There were 445 actual and attempted pirate attacks on ships around the world in 2010, equal to the last peak recorded in 2003.

The number of attacks in the Gulf of Aden, which along with adjacent seas links Europe to Asia, dropped by half because of better patrolling. But pirates, mostly Somali gangs, struck further away.

“All measures taken at sea to limit the activities of the pirates are undermined because of a lack of responsible authority back in Somalia from where the pirates begin their voyages,” said Mukundan. Foreign navies have been deployed off the Gulf of Aden since the start of 2009 and have operated convoys. They have also set up a transit corridor for ships to pass through vulnerable points.

The number of attacks in the South China Sea, which links to a key shipping lane for world trade, more than doubled to 31 in 2010, the IMB said.

Malaysian navy foils hijack attempt off Oman

(REUTERS) - Malaysian navy commandos foiled an attempted hijacking of a Malaysian-owned ship by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, rescuing 23 crew members and detaining seven pirates, military officials said.

The Singapore-bound chemical tanker, MT Bunga Laurel, was carrying lubricating oil and ethylene dichloride worth an estimated 30 million ringgit ($9.8 million) when it was attacked by pirates about 300 nautical miles (555 km) east of Oman on Thursday, said the Royal Malaysian Navy.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said the government was studying international law on how to deal with the detained pirates.

“We will determine what we should do, whether we are going to bring them here to be tried or take any other appropriate action,” The Star newspaper quoted Najib as saying.

The incident, which happened close to midnight on Thursday, involved the navy’s auxiliary ship, Bunga Mas 5, which was located 14 nautical miles (25.9km) away.

“At exactly 11.40 p.m., Bunga Mas 5 called MISC’s Emergency Reporting Centre to report that Bunga Laurel had been attacked and pirates were attempting to board the ship by using skiffs,” said Navy chief Admiral Abdul Aziz Jaafar.

Bunga Laurel is owned by Malaysian International Shipping Corp (MISC), the world’s largest owner of liquefied natural gas tankers.

Gunshots were exchanged between the pirates and snipers from the Bunga Mas 5 and a Fennec attack helicopter.

The pirates, three suffering serious injuries from gunshots or splinters, surrendered via radio after coming under heavy fire.