Pirate attacks down off Africa, up in Asian waters

AP News
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Posted: Oct 18, 2010 7:30 AM
Pirate attacks down off Africa, up in Asian waters

Pirates are increasingly attacking ships in the South China Sea and Indonesian waters, but fewer incidents off Somalia have caused the worldwide total to fall slightly this year, a maritime watchdog said Monday.

The number of attacks tripled to 30 in the South China Sea between January and September over the same period last year, mainly because of pirates operating off Indonesia's coastline, according to data compiled by the London-based International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Malaysia.

Armed pirates have been robbing mostly merchant vessels in the South China Sea off the Indonesian island of Mangkai, said Noel Choong, head of the reporting center. The area is a transit route used by vessels heading southeast to the Singapore Strait or northwest to East Asia and the Pacific Ocean.

The pirates appeared to take advantage of periods when Indonesian naval patrols were relatively weaker, Choong said.

Attacks in other parts of Indonesia's sprawling archipelago away from the South China Sea also increased from seven to 26 in the same period, probably because patrols in those areas were reduced as well at certain times, Choong said.

Choong said Indonesian authorities have not told the bureau why patrols were sometimes cut back, but he noted they boosted vigilance after the bureau wrote to them last month about recurring attacks in the South China Sea.

However, the global number of attacks dipped from 306 in the first nine months of 2009 to 289 this year, the bureau reported. The improvement was because attacks by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden dropped in this period from 100 to 44.

Lawlessness in Somalia has caused piracy to spiral off the country's coastline in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, which is patrolled by an international flotilla of warships.

Naval intervention has helped ease attacks in the Gulf of Aden this year, coupled with monsoon weather that moved piracy farther out to sea.

However, the monsoon season's end in mid-September may mean that attacks increase in the final three months of 2010, the bureau warned.

The European Union Naval Force said Monday that the bulk carrier MV Daisy, hijacked in April off Somalia, was released Sunday from pirate control. The crew, 21 Filipinos, were reported to be in good health. The EU Naval Force statement didn't say how much of a ransom was paid for the ship's release.