Sea Transportation: Pirates More Active and Violent


January 30, 2008: Piracy was up ten percent last year, to 269 attacks. That's actually miniscule, when you consider that there are over 33,000 large (over 1,000 GRT tons) transport ships at sea every day. Even though these ships are close enough to the coast to be attacked less than a third of the time, that still means that a pirate attack is much less likely than running into a bad storm and suffering some damage.

But most of the attacks occur in three hot spots (off Somalia, the Niger river delta in Nigeria and western Indonesia). Most of these are the work of about a dozen gangs, who consider robbing merchant ships as just one illegal form of income among many.

More worrisome is the increase in violence. Guns were used in 27 percent of the attacks in 2007, up a third from 2006. Moreover, 64 crew members were physically assaulted in 2007, up from 17 in the previous year. It's the African pirates that are generating most of the additional violence. Off Nigeria, many of the pirates are also tribal rebels, and are pretty angry.


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