By Njoroge Kaburo
NAIROBI, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- Piracy off the coast of Somalia has dropped significantly due to preventive measures deployed by the foreign warships to thwart such attacks, a global maritime body said in its report published on Wednesday.
The report by the International Chamber Commerce (ICC)'s International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reveals that there were only 15 incidents reported off Somalia in 2013, down from 75 in 2012, and 237 in 2011, contributing to the worldwide fall in piracy.
IMB Director Captain Pottengal Mukundan said the single biggest reason for the drop in worldwide piracy is the decrease in Somali piracy off the coast of East Africa.
"The Somali pirates have been deterred by a combination of factors, including the key role of international navies, the hardening of vessels, the use of private armed security teams, and the stabilizing influence of Somalia's central government," said Mukundan.
According to IMB, the 15 incidents attributed to Somali pirates in 2013 include two hijacked vessels, both of which were released within a day as a result of naval actions. A further eight vessels were fired upon.
"It is imperative to continue combined international efforts to tackle Somali piracy. Any complacency at this stage could re- kindle pirate activity," warned Mukundan. These figures are the lowest since 2006, when 10 Somali attacks were recorded.
"As of December 31 2013, suspected Somali pirates continue to hold 64 crew members from vessels hijacked between April 2010 and March 2012," IMB said.
The African maritime industry, along the Indian Ocean has been greatly affected by piracy that has raised the costs of shipping as insurance companies and private ship security companies increased their premiums to mitigate the risks.
The drop in piracy incidents is however a relief to shipping companies using the Indian Ocean that have been target of pirates, often paying heavy ransom to secure release of their vehicles and the crew.
The Kenyan government expects more shipping lines to use the port of Mombasa and in return expand regional trade in Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Congo, with the diffused threat of piracy following the deployment of Kenya Defense Force (KDF) soldiers in southern Somalia.
The piracy incident had also affected the shipping sector by rise of cost of insurance as shippers took extra covers for war risk, kidnapping and ransom in addition to conventional underwriting of cargo and hull.
The pirates are using modus operandi to attack ships in the northern, eastern and southern coast of Somalia.
Past attacks reaching up to off Kenya, off Tanzania and off Seychelles, off Madagascar, off Mozambique/Mozambique Channel in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea/off Oman, Gulf of Oman and off west coast of India.
Mukundan called on Masters to monitor and keep clear of small boats, dhows and fishing vessels if possible. "A 24-hour visual and radar watch must be maintained at all times while transiting these waters," he cautioned.
IMB's annual global piracy report shows more than 300 people were taken hostage at sea last year and 21 were injured, nearly all with guns or knives.
A total of 12 vessels were hijacked, 202 were boarded, 22 were fired upon and a further 28 reported attempted attacks. Nigerian pirates were particularly violent, killing one crewmember, and kidnapping 36 people to hold onshore for ransom.
West African piracy made up 19 percent of attacks worldwide last year. Nigerian pirates and armed robbers accounted for 31 of the region's 51 attacks, taking 49 people hostage and kidnapping 36, more than in any year since 2008.
Nigerian pirates ventured far into waters off Gabon, Ivory Coast and Togo, where they were linked with at least five of the region's seven reported vessel hijackings.
Off the coast of Nigeria itself, two ships were hijacked, 13 were boarded and 13 fired upon.
Malaysian waters saw the hijacking of two product tankers with 27 crew taken hostage, resulting in the theft of the ships' property and cargo.