2010 proved to be a very good year — for pirates taking hostages. A record year, in fact:
Pirates took a record 1,181 hostages in 2010, despite increased patrolling of the seas, a maritime watchdog has said.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said 53 ships were hijacked worldwide – 49 of them off Somalia’s coast – and eight sailors were killed.
The IMB described as “alarming” the continued increase in hostage-taking incidents – the highest number since the centre began monitoring in 1991.
Overall, there were 445 pirate attacks last year – a 10% rise from 2009.
Last week, a separate study found maritime piracy costs the global economy between $7bn (£4.4bn) and $12bn (£7.6bn) a year.
“These figures for the number of hostages and vessels taken are the highest we have ever seen,” said Pottengal Mukundan, the head of the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre.
In the seas off Somalia, the IMB said, heavily-armed pirates were often overpowering fishing or merchant vessels and then using them as bases for further attacks.
The Somali attacks accounted for 1,016 hostages seized last year. Somali pirates are currently holding 31 ships with more than 700 crew on board.
Although naval patrols – launched in 2009 in the Gulf of Aden – have foiled a number of attacks, Somali pirates are now operating farther offshore.
Here’s a video about pirate hazards and Kenya:
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.