Attacks on shipping by pirates are on the decline, according to a maritime watchdog. The fall in incidents off the Somalia coast was particularly striking, with international naval operations being given credit.
The number of pirate attacks in the first nine months of 2012 fell by a third compared with the previous year, the Malaysia-based International Maritime Bureau reported on Monday.
The drop was particularly striking for the number of instances recorded off the coast of Somalia, the agency said, with the work of naval task forces highlighted as a reason for the drop.
"We welcome the successful robust targeting… by international navies in the high-risk waters off Somalia, ensuring these criminals are removed before they can threaten ships," bureau director Captain Pottengal Mukundan said.
The bureau reported that there had been 233 incidents between January and September this year, a significant fall on the 352 reported for 2011.
While there were 199 attacks off the coast of Somalia last year, there were only 70 in the first nine months of 2012. Between July and September, there was just one attempted hijacking of a vessel off the East African state.
Hostages still await release
Mukundan said Somali pirates were still holding 11 vessels for ransom, with 167 crew members being held as hostages.
While the deployment of naval forces such as NATO's Operation Ocean Shield and the European Union Naval Force, Somalia was highlighted as one reason for the fall, so too were initiatives by shipping operators such as the hiring of security teams.
"It's good news that hijackings are down, but there can be no room for complacency: these waters are still extremely high-risk and the naval presence must be maintained," Mukundan said.
Of particular concern, the bureau said, was an increase in piracy in the seas around Indonesia and the Gulf of Guinea.
News of the success comes after a German court jailed 10 Somali men at the end of a two-year trial on piracy charges.
rc/jr (AFP, dpa)