Sea Transportation: Pirates Return to the Malacca Straits

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July 7, 2006: After nearly two years of increased anti-piracy patrols in the heavily used Malacca Strait, the number of pirate attacks are on the rise again. In the last three months, there have been five attacks. Part of this is due to a cutback in the frequency of patrols, because of the higher cost of fuel, and lack of pirate activity. The pirates, who are part-timers, and spend most of their time fishing or smuggling, noticed. And acted. The three most recent attacks included robberies on two small ships carrying UN disaster relief aid to Aceh (Indonesia's westernmost province), and one failed attack on a Japanese freighter. There, an alert crew detected the pirates trying to board, and used flood lights and fire hoses to keep them off the ship. The big fear is that Islamic terrorists would seize a ship with a dangerous cargo (petroleum, or some other chemicals or explosives) and turn the vessel into a floating bomb. As a result of these new attacks, there is increased international pressure on the countries supplying the forces for the Malacca Strait patrols (Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia), to increase policing activity. Each year, half the worlds oil shipments, and a third of all commerce, pass through these straits.

 


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