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Sea piracy hits record high

Malaysian commandos conduct an anti-piracy exercise.
Malaysian commandos conduct an anti-piracy exercise.

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(CNN) -- Record levels of piracy and violence has forced the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) to demand greater government protection and single out Indonesia as the nation with the world's most dangerous waters.

One in five attacks on commercial shipping are conducted in Indonesian waters, says a survey released Wednesday by the British-based IMB, which is part of the International Chamber of Commerce.

A total of 21 seamen died and another 71 are still missing as a result of attacks worldwide last year, according to the IMB. Ten died in 2002.

The most recent reported attack was at the Balikpapan anchorage in Indonesia on January 23.

Ten pirates armed with knives boarded a bulk carrier, attacking and tying up the duty officer, a new incident report posted on the IMB's Web site said.

"They stole property and escaped by climbing down anchor chain," it said.

"At the time, the ship was undergoing cargo operations with barges on both sides and stevedores on board. An armed policeman was on board during the attack."

Piracy is fast becoming the norm in Asian and African waters, according to the new survey, released Wednesday by the Kuala Lumpur office of the IMB.

The report says it is becoming increasingly common for pirates to be armed with guns, including semi-automatic weapons.

Indonesian warnings

Pirates roaming Singaporean waters will be regarded as terrorists, the Singapore government says.
Pirates roaming Singaporean waters will be regarded as terrorists, the Singapore government says.

Commercial shipping suffered 445 attacks in 2003 -- a 20 percent increase from the previous 12 months, says the IMB.

Indonesia accounted for 121 attacks across its sprawling archipelago more than 25 percent of all piracy.

"Unless Indonesia takes serious steps to police its waters, we don't foresee any drop in the number of attacks worldwide," Noel Choong, head of the piracy reporting center, told The Associated Press.

Many of Indonesia's attacks are robberies and kidnappings for ransom.

Its piracy plight is followed by Bangladesh with 58 reported attacks, Nigeria (39) and India (27).

At least 88 crew members were wounded by pirates -- more than twofold the 38 injuries in 2002.

Another 359 seafarers were taken hostage, compared with 191 in the previous year.

The IMB also identified 27 ports and anchorages that are increasingly prone to pirate attacks.

The strongest warnings single out Chittagong, Bangladesh; Lagos, Nigeria; Chennai and Cochin in India; Dakar, Senegal; Balikpapan, Indonesia; and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

In the past 12 months, there has been an "abnormal trend" in which pirates hijack tugboats and barges for unknown reasons, the report said.

IMB's Choong said Wednesday: "We have no idea where the boats have been taken and what they're being used for."

He speculated the vessels may be used by Indonesian crime syndicates for smuggling.

After the September 11 attacks on the United States, the IMB has consistently warned that ships, such as tankers carrying explosive natural gas, could be hijacked and used as weapons.

The IBM says security in many ports has been upgraded but warns no shipboard response can protect seafarers from terrorist assaults.


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