Piracy at sea falls to lowest level in seven years

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Live Mint, October 21, 2013

Piracy on the world?s seas is at its lowest in the January to September period since 2006, according to a report published by the International Chamber of Commerce?s International Maritime Bureau (IMB) last week.

IMB, however, warned of the threat of continuing violent attacks off the east and west coasts of Africa.

As many as 188 incidents of piracy happened in the first nine months of 2013 compared with 233 in the year earlier, according to the IMB report.

Hostage-taking has also fallen markedly, with 266 people taken hostage this year compared with 458 in the first three quarters of 2012, it said.

In the first nine months of 2013, IMB?s global figures showed that pirates hijacked 10 vessels, fired at 17 and boarded 140. A further 21 attacks were thwarted. In total, 266 crew were taken hostage and 34 kidnapped. One seafarer was killed, 20 were injured, and one is reported missing, it said.

?Although the number of attacks is down overall, the threat of attacks remains, particularly in the waters off Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea. It is vital that ship masters continue to be vigilant as they transit these waters,? said IMB director Pottengal Mukundan.

Pirates had attacked several Indian ships and held many Indian sailors as hostages. In March, PTI cited shipping minister G.K. Vasan as saying that nine Indian sailors were held captive by Somalian pirates and the government is continuing its efforts for the release of Indian sailors.

The piracy had prompted insurers responding by increase premiums, resulting in higher costs for shipping firms. Indian government had issued detailed anti-piracy measures including banning of sailing vessels to ply in waters of south or west of the line joining Salalah in Oman and Male in the Maldives, apart from Indian naval ships providing escort in the Gulf of Aden since 2008.

IMB said attacks in the seas around Somalia continued to fall dramatically, with just 10 incidents attributed to Somali pirates this year, down from 70 in the same nine months of 2012. IMB attributed this improvement to the actions of naval forces engaged in anti-piracy operations, security teams on board vessels, ships complying with the industry?s best management practices, and the stabilizing influence of the central government of Somalia.

?The vital role of the navies off the coast of Somalia should not be underestimated. Their presence ensures that pirates do not operate with the impunity they did before,? said Mukundan.

As monsoon subsides in north-west Indian Ocean, the weather will become more conducive for small pirate skiffs to operate again, the report said.

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