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Africa

Ship hijackings reach five-year high, says watchdog

media A South Korean official shows the location where Somali pirates seized … Reuters

A martime watchdog warned Monday that ship hijackings have hit a five-year high, and added that the spike is caused by Somali pirates striking further away from the coast. Heavily-armed Somali pirates are responsible for 35 of the 39 maritime hijackings this year.

“The pirates are going into areas where they have not previously been known to operate,” Pottengal Mukundan, the director of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which reports on worldwide piracy, told RFI.

Pottengal Mukundan, Director, International Maritime Bureau 18/10/2010 - by Laura Angela Bagnetto Listen
The naval presence in the Gulf of Aden is absolutely vital. If we did not have that, the number of attacks would be far greater.

In July, Somali pirates successfully hijacked a vessel in the southern Red Sea, an area where they have not previously been known to operate.

“Somali pirates are relying on the fact that the naval presence in these areas is not strong enough and the vessels themselves may not be on full alert,” Mukundan said.

A strong international naval presence in the Gulf of Aden has led to a drop in incidents in the area, from 100 betwee January and September of last year, to 44 over the same period this year.

However, reinforcements have also driven pirates to strike further out.

According to the Mukundan, ransoms paid by shipping companies help finance pirate activities.

“The problem is that ship owners have no one to turn to for help, there is no law enforcement agency in Somalia and no other naval or governmental presence which is going to intervene,” he says.

“So really they have no other options that to try and reach an agreement with the Somali pirates.”

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