Nine Piracy Incidents At Sea In Malaysia In First Quarter Of 2011

Nine piracy incidents at sea occurred in Malaysia in the first quarter of 2011, including the hijacking of a tugboat and barge off Tioman Island.Vessels were also boarded in seven incidents by robbers armed with guns and knives, said the director of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), Captain Pottengal Mukundan, Thursday. He said piracy at sea had hit an all-time high in the first three months of this year with 142 attacks worldwide where 18 vessels were hijacked, 344 crew members taken hostage, and six kidnapped. Another 45 vessels were boarded and 45 more reported being fired upon, he said in the statement. "The sharp rise was driven by a surge in piracy off the coast of Somalia where 97 attacks were recorded, up from 35 in the same period last year. Figures for piracy and armed robbery at sea in the past three months were higher than we had ever
recorded in the first quarter of any year," he said. The IMB's Piracy Reporting Centre which has monitored piracy worldwide since 1991, also reported that during the same period, pirates had murdered seven crew members and injured 34 compared with just two injuries in 2006. Mukundan said of the 18 ships hijacked during the period, 15 were
captured off the east of Somalia, in and around the Arabian Sea and one in the Gulf of Aden. "In this area alone, 299 people were taken hostage and six more were kidnapped from their vessel," he said, adding that at the last count on March 31, IMB figures showed that Somali pirates were holding captive 596 crew members on 28 ships. He noted that
there were also a dramatic increase in violence and techniques used by pirates in the seas off Somalia. "The overwhelming number of vessels hijcked off Somalia took place east and northeast of the Gulf of Aden. The positions of some of the attackers' mother ships are known. It is vital that strong action is taken against these mother ships to
prevent further hijackings," he said. Mukundan also said that large tankers carrying oil and other flammable chemicals were particularly vulnerable to firearms attacks. "Three big tankers of over 100,000 tonnes deadweight had been hijacked off the Horn of Africa this year. Of a total of 97 vessels attacked in this region, 37 were tankers and of these, 20 had a deadweight of more that 100,000 tonnes," he said. Elsewhere, he said the Indian navy captured 61 Somalia pirates on a hijacked ship off India's west coast, while Nigeria recorded five incidents with three attacks against vessels in Lagos. "Crews in the area are reporting increased violence, including one incident where all 27 crew members were injured. "IMB's concern about an expansion of Nigeria-style piracy has been heightened by the hijacking of a chemical tanker off neighbouring Benin, which its captors finally directed to Lagos," he said.

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