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Pirate attacks at sea plunging, especially from Somalis

July 16, 2012|By Tiffany Hsu
  • A U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team investigate a Somali skiff.
A U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team investigate a Somali… (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication…)

Ships are staffing their decks with armed guards. Government navies are out in force scouring the waters. The increased watchfulness is starting to wash away the grip held by maritime pirates, especially Somali ones, over the high seas.

Piracy dove 54% in the first half of the year, according to the International Maritime Bureau, a unit of the International Chamber of Commerce.

From January to June, pirates around the world attacked ships 177 times, down from 266 assaults during the same period last year. Overall, 20 vehicles were hijacked. More than 300 crew members were taken hostage; at least four of them were killed.

But off Somalia’s coast, incidents were more than halved from 163 to 69. Only 13 vessels were seized, compared with 21 in the first half of last year.

Somali piracy took a $7-billion chunk out of the global economy last year, hitting the shipping industry and international governments hard, according to advocacy group Oceans Beyond Piracy.

Vessels spent $2.7 billion in fuel costs racing through high-risk areas, while $1.3 billion was spent on military operations and $1.1 billion went to security equipment and armed guards.

Shipping companies spent $635 million on insurance. Average ransoms are up 25% to about $5 million.

Pirates, however, are becoming bolder in the Gulf of Guinea on Africa’s western coast, according to the maritime bureau. And the number of attacks in Indonesia, where 20% of all pirate strikes occur, is also rising.

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