Brazen reign of terror on the high seas escalates

Attacks have risen by 36 per cent, to 266, compared with a year earlier. But their success rate has fallen.

Pirates are stepping up their campaign of terror on the open ocean with attacks in the first half of the year increasing by 36 per cent, to 266, compared with a year earlier.

However, the success of these hijacking attacks has fallen, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). Somali pirates were responsible for more than 60 per cent of the attacks worldwide. As of June, Somali pirates held 20 vessels and 420 crew and were demanding ransoms worth millions of dollars after launching ever more daring raids, often hundreds of miles from the Somali coast and even during storms.

"In the last six months, Somali pirates attacked more vessels than ever before and they're taking higher risks," said Pottengal Mukundan, the IMB director. "This June, for the first time, pirates fired on ships in rough seas in the Indian Ocean during the monsoon season. In the past, they would have stayed away in such difficult conditions."

Following the hijacking of an Indian vessel waiting to berth at the Omani port of Salalah, Satish Agnihotri, the director general of shipping for the Indian government, said pirates were "going a step ahead".

"Earlier, pirates were found to carry out attacks on ships sailing in the high seas but now we find that even at places near the port or the coast, where ships are anchored and considered safe by seafarers, pirates are fearlessly carrying out attacks," he said.

Published: August 24, 2011 04:00 AM