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article imageFocus of world piracy shifts to Southeast Asia

By AFP     Oct 29, 2014 in World

The strategic seaways of Southeast Asia are seeing a "worrying new rise" in piracy even as the number of attacks continues to tumble globally, the International Maritime Bureau said Wednesday.

Southeast Asian waters saw 103 piracy incidents -- the vast bulk of them in Indonesian waters -- in the first nine months of this year, compared to 54 in the same period in 2011 and 81 last year, the IMB said in a quarterly report.

The Southeast Asian attacks made up the bulk of incidents reported globally, which fell to 178 through the first three quarters of this year, down from 188 in the same period last year and 352 over the first nine months of 2011.

IMB director Pottengal Mukundan attributed the worldwide reduction to international navy patrols off East Africa, launched in response to an earlier spike in violent attacks by mostly Somali-based pirates, as well as improved onboard security.

"However, there has been a worrying new rise in attacks against small coastal tankers in Southeast Asia. We advise small tankers in particular to remain vigilant in these waters," he said in a statement.

The report by the IMB's Piracy Reporting Centre, based in Kuala Lumpur, said "gangs of thieves armed with knives and guns" were increasingly attacking small tankers carrying fuel oil or marine diesel and stealing the cargo.

Pirates have plagued the region's waters for centuries but stepped-up regional cooperation and maritime patrols had significantly reduced the problem in recent years.

The region is home to vital shipping lanes such as the South China Sea and the Malacca Strait separating Malaysia and Indonesia, through which one-third of global trade passes.

Waters off Somalia have seen just 10 incidents reported so far this year, the IMB said.

But it warned that 40 hostages were still being held for ransom by suspected Somali pirates, with some of them now detained for more than four years.

The waters off Nigeria, which have emerged as another hotspot, saw 13 incidents in the first nine months of 2014, down from 29 in the same period last year, the IMB said.

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