Piracy claims 30 lives worldwide so far in ‘04

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Pirates killed 30 seafarers worldwide in the first six months of the year – the highest toll in more than a decade – and governments need to boost patrols in dangerous regions to curb the violence, a maritime group said Sunday.

The 30 killings compared to 16 during the same period last year despite an overall decline in pirate attacks, the British-based International Maritime Bureau said in a report released by its Piracy Watch Center in Kuala Lumpur.

“Reports of violence against seamen have risen,” Capt. Potenggal Mukundan, IMB Director, said in the report. “Law enforcement agencies should thus increase their presence in these hotspots to prevent the loss of lives and injuries.”

The casualty figures were the highest for the first half of any year since at least 1993, when the IMB began keeping records.

Fifteen deaths occurred in Nigerian waters, where pirates armed with automatic weapons have launched 13 attacks so far this year on commercial ships and passenger ferries plying the coast.

“The increased ferocity and the number of attacks are linked to law-and-order problems ashore,” the IMB said. “The (Nigerian) authorities are under pressure and unable to respond adequately to attacks at sea.”

Most of the other fatalities were in Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Nevertheless, the total number of pirate attacks worldwide fell to 182 so far this year from 234 in the first half of 2003, helped by decreasing attacks in places such as India and the Gulf of Aden.

But Indonesia alone suffered 50 pirate attacks, the most of any country.

That figure did not include another 20 attacks in the Straits of Malacca, which straddle Indonesia’s Sumatra island and the Malay peninsula.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore last week began their first coordinated naval patrols to deter piracy and terrorism in the straits, through which 50,000 ships pass each year.

“Only time will tell whether or not these patrols prove effective,” said Noel Choong, head of the IMB’s piracy watch center. “The countries involved must put in long-term commitment before the situation in these waters can improve significantly.”

Other piracy-plagued nations include Ghana and Venezuela, which each suffered five attacks. Brazil, Colombia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam reported three attacks apiece.

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