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World sea piracy numbers drop for third-straight year

World sea piracy has fallen for the third-straight year and to a six-year low, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has said. Curbing the threat of Somali pirates has been key.

Global pirate attacks in 2013 numbered 264, down from 297 the previous year, the IMB, a London-based anti-crime arm of the International Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday. It continues the decline since 445 attacks were registered in 2010.

The IMB said 12 vessels were hijacked in 2013, with more than 300 hostages taken and one killed.

Attacks by Somali pirates dropped from 75 in 2012 to 15 in 2013, with international navy patrols and increased ship security playing a role. IMB director Captain Pottengal Mukundan said targeting a reduction in Somali piracy off the east coast of Africa had been the "biggest reason for the drop in worldwide piracy."

But he said maintaining vigilance was pivotal to keeping shipping lanes safer: "It is imperative to continue combined international efforts to tackle Somali piracy. Any complacency at this stage could rekindle pirate activity," he said.

Nigerian pirates a growing threat

While East African piracy was down, there were increases of incidents off the west coast of the continent. Nigerian pirates accounted for 31 of the 51 attacks in the region, traveling into waters off Gabon, the Ivory Coast and Togo.

"Nigerian pirates were particularly violent, killing one crew member, and kidnapping 36 people to hold onshore for ransom," the IMB's report said.

There were also increases in the Indonesian archipelago, with attacks up from 81 in 2012 to 106 in 2013. The IMB report said it was working closely with Indonesian marine police, who have increased patrols.

Other attacks - described as "low-level opportunistic threats," like many of those in Indonesia waters - were recorded in India and Bangladesh. Nine cases were reported in the Singapore Straits and the waters of Malaysia.

ph/dr (AP, dpa)