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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 November 2005, 00:31 GMT
Piracy 'on the rise' off Somalia
The Seabourne Sprint, which escaped an attack off the Somali coast on Saturday
A luxury cruise liner outran pirates off the Somali coast on Saturday
Serious pirate attacks off the Somali coast have jumped dramatically after a two-year lull, says a report.

The problem was highlighted over the weekend, when a luxury cruise liner was attacked and pursued by pirates.

The greatest number of attacks overall were off Indonesia, with 61 of a total of 205 attacks reported worldwide.

Gloabally, though, attacks fell 18% in the first nine months of 2005 on the same period of 2004, said the report from the International Maritime Bureau.

Somali spike

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) says in the nine-month period of 2005, 141 ships were boarded, 15 fired upon and 11 were hijacked. Of the 259 crewmembers taken hostage, 12 are still missing.

The most alarming rise in attacks was off the eastern and north-eastern coast of Somalia, where attacks shot up from one in 2004 to 19 in 2005. In one incident, the report says, a vessel was lured closer to the shore by pirates who set off distress flares.

Attacks have continued apace since the end of the period in question, the IMB told the BBC News website, with an additional nine attacks since 1 October.

The IMB was "still trying to figure out" the reasons for the dramatic increase, a spokesman said. In the last five years, the number of attacks has never exceeded six.

The report says daily warnings are transmitted to ships sailing close to Somalia advising them to keep as far away as possible.

Once inside the waters, ships targeted by pirates have very little chance of a redress to the law, because, as the report points out, "there is no national law enforcement infrastructure in Somalia".

Piracy hotspots

Indonesian waters remain far and away the most vulnerable to pirate attacks.

This is mainly attributed to the high level of commercial maritime activity in the area, along with high levels of lawlessness and organised crime.

Other piracy hotspots include Bangladesh and Nigeria, both with 14 attacks, India with 12 and Jamaica with seven.

Ten separate attacks were recorded in the Malacca Straits - which divide Malaysia and the large Indonesian island of Sumatra - despite a period of relative quiet following December's tsunami. Seven took place in the Singapore Straits.

And an additional eight attacks were reported in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

The report flags up a "new and worrying trend" off Iraq. Six attacks have been reported off the Basra oil terminal since 22 April, despite the close proximity of coalition naval ships.

Pirates never now attempt attacks unarmed, the report says. Guns and knives are pirates' weapons of choice, with roughly equal usage of both.

Somalia's dangerous waters
26 Sep 05 |  Africa
Resurgence of piracy on tsunami-hit seas
11 May 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Growing threat of 'maritime muggers'
15 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific

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