The number of pirate attacks reached a record high in the first three months of 2011, with 142 attacks reported around the globe.
The attack statistics, which came from a report published on Thursday by the International Chamber of Commerce and International Maritime Bureau (IMB), show that nearly 70 percent of the attacks occurred off the Somali coast in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea.
Somali pirates have hijacked 15 vessels and 299 people have been taken hostage in the region this year with a total of 97 attacks reported. Last year, 35 attacks were reported around Somalia in the same period.
Somali pirates are currently holding 596 crew members and 28 ships.
The director of IMB, Captain Pottengal Mukundan, said, “We’re seeing a dramatic increase in the violence and techniques used by pirates in the seas off Somalia,” according to an IMB press release.
Mukundan, whose Piracy Reporting Center has been monitoring pirate activity since 1991, said that of particular concern are large tankers carrying heavy loads of flammable material, which are vulnerable to firearm attack. He said of the 97 vessels attacked off the Somali coast this year, 37 of these have been tankers and three of these have been hijacked.
Pirates often use the ships they hijack as “mother ships” bases from which to attack other vessels.
Mukundan, said that “The positions of some of the attackers’ mother ships are known.” He said that to prevent further hijackings, “It is vital that strong action is taken against these mother ships.”
A Canadian security expert said that over half of the commercial vessels that travel through the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean do not have sufficient security to defend themselves from attack, according to a report by Canada’s CTV, April 14.
In a recent interview with CTV, Allan McDougall, who co-founded Evolutionary Security Management, said that pirates are becoming more sophisticated in their attack strategy and tools.
McDougall said that essential to defending against pirates, is keeping them from boarding ships. He said that vessels with private security on board have been successful at deterring pirates, though he does not see having armed guards on commercial vessels as a silver bullet.
Worldwide, 18 ships were seized and 344 crew were taken hostage between January and March of this year. Pirates have so far killed seven crew members and injured 34 others, in 2011.
In February, Somali pirates killed four Americans after taking over their yacht, while release conditions were being negotiated.
The IMB reported that a number of countries have stepped up their efforts to defeat pirates. In March, the Indian navy succeeded in capturing 61 pirates.