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Pirate attacks reach 10-year high

Piracy on the rise
Asian waters, the modern-day piracy hotspot.  

HONG KONG, China -- Pirate attacks on international shipping have reached their highest level in a decade with Asia remaining a world piracy hotspot.

According to the latest figures from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), a total of 469 attacks were recorded last year, up 56 per cent from 1999 figures, with a steep rise in the number of sailors killed as a result.

According to reports logged with the IMB's Piracy Monitoring Center, based in Kuala Lumpur, 72 seafarers were killed and 99 injured in 2000, up from three deaths and 24 injured the previous year.

 Piracy attacks in 2000
  • Indonesia: 119
  • Malacca Straits: 75
  • Bangladesh: 55
  • India: 35
  • 73 seafarers killed
  • 99 injured
  • 26 still missing

The Center says Asian waters remain the most treacherous for seafarers, accounting for around one quarter of the incidents reported.

Asian sea-lanes are also the scene for some of the most violent and deadly pirate attacks.

Indonesia's waters are the most risky, with 119 incidents reported last year.

"The political and economic situation in Indonesia is believed to be the main contributing factor to the alarming increase in attacks," the IMB said.

Straits hotspot

The worst area is the strategically important Malacca Straits which has earned the dubious honor of becoming the world's fastest-growing piracy hotspot.

Piracy incidents in this key shipping lane between Malaysia and the Indonesian island of Sumatra jumped to 75 in 2000, up from just two in 1999.

However, the Piracy Monitoring Centre says this figure is only based on the number of reported incidents. It says many other attacks go unreported.

Other areas to experience a sharp rise in piracy are Bangladesh, India, Ecuador and the Red Sea.

Only the relatively well-patrolled Singapore Straits saw a decrease in the number of attacks, falling 14 in 1999 to five in last year.

According to Commercial Crime Services (ICC), a division of the International Chamber of Commerce, hijackings often go unchecked in Asian waters.

Last month a Japanese-owned ship, the Global Mars, was boarded by an armed gang in the mouth of the Malacca Straits.

"With typical callousness, the pirates tied up and blindfolded the crew and kept them prisoners for 11 days before finally setting them adrift in an open boat with only a little food and water," an ICC report on the incident said.

"The Panamanian-registered ship and its cargo of palm oil has disappeared, so far without trace. The 17 crew members from South Korea and Myanmar were rescued by a Thai fishing boat after five days adrift."

International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Center

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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