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.