This article originally appeared in


     
11 November, 2005
   
 
Piracy increases in Somali, Indonesian waters

ISN SECURITY WATCH (11/11/05) - Ships passing close to Somali and Indonesian
waters are more likely to be attacked by pirates this year, according to information from
the International Maritime Bureau's watch center, which warned boats to stay far
away from a handful of hotspots and called on the world's major sea powers to step
up monitoring efforts.

The Malaysia-based watchdog group also said that pirates were becoming more
audacious, sailing further and taking greater risks than in the past.

"Ship captains are being more cautious, and so these pirates must take ever greater
risks," a spokesman for the organization told ISN Security Watch. "Unfortunately, they
can usually find some ship in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the results can
be deadly."

According to statistics gathered over the first nine months of this year, pirate attacks
worldwide dropped to 205, compared to 251 over the same period a year earlier. It
was the lowest nine-month figure since 1999, when there were 181 attacks around
the world. So far, 30 people have been killed in pirate attacks this year, the same
number as during the first nine months of last year.

Former piracy hot spots that are becoming safer include Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia,
Ghana, Guinea, Haiti, Liberia, Malaysia, Mauritania, the Philippines, Senegal, Thailand,
and Venezuela.

Despite the overall downward trend, the most pirate-infested waters of the world have
become more dangerous, according to the bureau. A total of 70 ships were attacked
off the Indonesian coast over the first three quarters of the year, compared to 61 over
the same period in 2004. The figure could have been higher, the bureau said, but
pirates may have been deterred by the large naval presence in the area after last
December's tsunami.

The Somali coast has been the scene of the most spectacular increase, with 19 pirate
attacks so far in 2005, compared to just one in 2004.

Somalia, which has not had an internationally recognized government since 1991, is
ruled by competing warlords. Attacks in Somali waters are most likely to be violent as
well, the bureau said. Somalia lies along key shipping lanes linking the Mediterranean
with the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean.

"The economic situation there is becoming more and more desperate," the spokesman
said. "Most pirate attacks involve a ship being boarded, and whatever money there is
or cargo that can easily be resold is removed. But in Somalia, people onboard are often
held for ransom, or in some cases killed so that the boat can be commandeered."

Only two weeks ago, Somali pirates fired rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles
at a medium-sized cruise ship carrying some 300 tourists, including many from
Australia, Britain, and the US. The crew had been specially trained to resist attack and
were able to prevent the gun-wielding buccaneers from boarding the ship, though one
crew member was seriously injured. US bomb experts in the Seychelles had to defuse
an unexploded grenade lodged in the ship's hull.

Around the same time, a cargo ship carrying relief supplies was released in Somalia
after being held for 14 weeks. No crew members were killed in that incident, though
several were injured.

The bureau changed its recommendations for ships passing close by Somalia this
month, and now recommends that ships stay at least 240 kilometers away from the
Somali coast. The previously recommended distance had been 80 kilometers. The
recent attack on the cruise ship, 180 kilometers from the shore, was the most distant
attack so far .

The London-based maritime union Numast is expected this month to designate the high
seas off the coast of Somalia a combat area, which would allow crew members to
refuse to sail there and would force ship owners to carry a specialized security staff.

(By Eric J. Lyman in Kuala Lumpur)