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Decline in piracy ''bottomed out''

Decline in piracy ''bottomed out''

Kuala Lumpur: The newly released Q3 2007 Report on Piracy Against Ships from the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) shows that acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the first three quarters of 2007 have jumped by nearly 14% when compared to the same period last year.

Piracy figures continue to rise, the IMB notes. As compared to 2006, this is the second quarter, in succession, seeing an increase in the piratical attacks. If this current trend continues, warns the IMB, it would appear that the decline in piracy attacks since 2004 has bottomed out. The first nine months of 2006 saw 174 attacks as compared to 198 attacks reported in 2007. Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the IMB commented: ''The level of violence in the high risk areas remains unacceptable. Pirates in Somalia are operating with impunity, seizing vessels hundreds of miles off the coast and holding the vessel and crew to ransom, making no attempt to hide their activity. We urge masters to continue to report attacks, wherever they occur, to the PRC. These reports play a key role in initiating action by law enforcement against the pirates''

IMB's report states that so far in 2007, 15 vessels were hijacked, 172 crew members were taken hostage, 63 were kidnapped, three were killed and 21 were assaulted. Somalia remains one of the key hotspots with a total of 26 incidents reported. This compared to 8 incidents during the same period last year highlights the blatant disregard for the rule of law. A total of nine vessels have been hijacked with 85 crew taken as hostage. These nine months represent one of the highest numbers of attacks reported off this troubled coast of East Africa. Late July saw five vessels hijacked by pirates moored close to each other a few miles off the coast at Hobiyo. Shore based authorities did nothing to assist. The Danica White was released after a substantial ransom was paid to the gang holding the vessel. IMB continues to advice vessels not calling at Somalia to remain at least 200 NM off the coast of Somalia. But the IMB says: ''The efforts to refer the issue of Somalia to the United Nations Security Council are seen as a vital step in the right direction towards addressing the issue. Nigeria has also seen a drastic increase in attacks in these nine months. A total of 26 incidents have been reported as compared to the nine reported during the corresponding period in 2006.''  [17/10/07]