Nairobi: Somali pirates are still holding 11 foreign vessels for ransom with 167 crew members as hostages as of Sep 30 even as the number of ships signalling attacks by Somali pirates has fallen to its lowest since 2009, a global maritime organisation said Monday.
A report from the International Chamber of Commerce, International Maritime Bureau (IMB) released Monday said 21 kidnapped crew members are being held on land and more than 20 hostages have now been held for over 30 months, reported Xinhua.
"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," said IMB director, Captain Pottengal Mukundan, in a statement sent to Xinhua.
Demanding millions of dollars in ransom for captured ships and their crews, Somali pirates had late last year intensified operations not just off their own coastline, but further afield in the Red Sea, particularly during the monsoon season in the wider Indian Ocean.
Tankers carrying Middle East oil through the Suez Canal must pass first through the Gulf of Aden. According to maritime officials, about four percent of the world`s daily oil supply is shipped through the gulf.
The attacks are being carried out by increasingly well-coordinated Somali gangs armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, maritime officials said.
The drop in Somali piracy has brought global figures for piracy and armed robbery at sea down to 233 incidents this year -- the lowest third quarter total since 2008, according to IMB.
According to IMB, that has monitored world piracy since 1991, in the first nine months of 2012, there were 70 Somali attacks compared with 199 for the corresponding period in 2011.
"And from July to September, just one ship reported an attempted attack by Somali pirates, compared with 36 incidents in the same three months last year," the report showed.
IMB said policing and interventions by international navies are deterring pirates, along with ships` employment of best management practices including the use of armed guards and other onboard security measures.
"We welcome the successful robust targeting of Pirate Action Groups by international navies in the high risk waters off Somalia, ensuring these criminals are removed before they can threaten ships," said Mukundan.
He however warned seafarers to remain vigilant in the high-risk waters around Somalia, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. Meanwhile, violent attacks and hijackings are spreading in the Gulf of Guinea.
Worldwide this year, pirates have killed at least six crew and taken 448 seafarers hostage. The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre recorded that 125 vessels were boarded, 24 hijacked and 26 fired upon. In addition, 58 attempted attacks were reported.