Singapore – The waters off Indonesia have the dubious honour of being the world’s most dangerous area, with 42 pirate attacks, or one-third of the world’s total, occurring there in the first half of 2005. Another worrying trend: Attacks in regional waters, namely the Malacca Strait, have become more violent, according a report by the Piracy Reporting Center of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
The grim findings overshadowed the fact that pirate attacks around the world dropped 30 per cent during the January-June period, with 127 incidents being reported.
Where the region is concerned, the study noted a drop in attacks in Indonesia (42 vs 50 last year), the Malacca Strait (eight vs 20 last year) and Singapore Strait(six vs seven last year).
The IMB described this as a "welcome drop" but added that some of the attacks were well-coordinated. "Pirates operate in large groups and attack the vessels from different directions at the same time," it said.
Referring to attacks near Indonesia's coast, the AFP quoted the IMB report as saying that "violence and intimidation of crew continues to be a hallmark of these attacks, with many of the pirates armed with guns and knives".
On the Malacca Strait, it noted that since the end of February, eight attacks had been reported "with increasing violence and innocent crew being abducted for ransom".
Some piracy-watchers told The Straits Times that the IMB report might not be telling the whole story because it relies on reports by seamen or shipowners.
They believe that about a third of piracy incidents go unreported because crews are not bothered to report the attempted attacks. Shipowners may also be reluctant to come forward because they fear that a report may lead to a hike in insurance premiums or reprisals from pirate syndicates.
* Pirate attacks fewer but are more violent (The Straits Times, July 20)
* Pirate attacks drop by 30 per cent in first half of 2005: Watchdog (The Jakarta Post, July 19)