Sep 25, 2013

    More pirate attacks in nearby waters

    THE treacherous waters off Somalia used to be the world's most dangerous marine passageway.

    That dubious distinction has moved a lot closer to home, with the waters near Johor and Malacca now surpassing Somalia as the top piracy hotbed, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

    It attributed this to a rise in piracy off Indonesia's Tanjung Priok, Dumai, Belawan, Taboneo and Muara Jawa - where the waters have been marked as hot spots.

    Although the Strait of Malacca remains safe for international shipping, the Kuala Lumpur-based IMB warned mariners to take precautions when plying the 960km stretch shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

    With its thousands of islands and many river mouths covered with mangroves, the coastal region of Indonesia is ideal for pirates to hide and evade capture. Pirates operating in Indonesian waters are armed with guns, knives and machetes, and are known to be violent.

    Of the 138 piracy incidents recorded worldwide in the first six months of this year, 48 were in Indonesia, the IMB said in its report.

    While global piracy had dropped substantially, down from 439 cases in 2011, there was an uptrend in Indonesia, it said.

    IMB said the number of high-sea robberies in the strait had dropped following aggressive patrolling by the littoral states, but it was unclear how long this would continue.

    About half the world's oil supplies and a third of global trade pass through the Strait of Malacca.

    A maritime-security analyst said the rise in piracy cases in Indonesian waters was due to a lack of vigilance.

    "This situation is made worse by the lack of economic opportunities."

    He said that big ocean-going vessels plying the route were aware of the problem and were on high alert.