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Pirate attacks down worldwide

FEB. 3 — The number of ocean pirate attacks fell to a six-year low in 2005 despite increasing numbers of attacks off countries like Somalia and Iraq.

The International Maritime Bureau  announced Tuesday in its annual report that there were 276 pirate attacks in 2005, down from 329 in 2004 — the lowest number since 1999. Despite the fact that no crewmembers were reported injured during any of the attacks last year, 12 remain missing.

“The drop in the number of reported attacks last year should be seen as a positive sign,” IMB director Capt. Pottengal Mukundan says in the report. “Some countries are becoming more proactive in their approach to dealing with piracy and armed robbery against ships.”

Despite the overall drop, pirate attacks escalated off places like Somalia, Iraq, Tanzania and Vietnam, the report says. Somalia recorded 35 reported attacks, placing it second behind Indonesia, with 79, for the most pirate attacks last year. Ten attacks were reported off Iraq in 2005, while none were reported in 2004. Most of these hotspot attacks were against boats at anchor, carried out by violent pirates aboard small boats, the IMB reported.

Other countries that recorded a number of attacks were Nigeria, Malaysia, Thailand, Brazil, Venezuela, Columbia, Haiti and Guinea, the report says. The overall drop in attacks is attributed to increased awareness, anti-piracy watches by shipmates, an increase in law enforcement patrols, and mounting pressure on governments.

The International Maritime Bureau is a specialized bureau of the International Chamber of Commerce. In addition to its annual report, the IMB publishes a weekly piracy report and maintains a 24-hour piracy-reporting center in Malaysia.

— Jason Fell