Indonesia: Save Heaven For Dangerous International Pirate

Kuala Lumpur - Indonesian waters remain the most dangerous in the world, accounting for nearly a quarter of all pirate attacks in the first three months of the year, an international maritime watchdog said Wednesday.

Overall, however, attacks reported globally fell by nearly a third to 41 compared with the same period last year, the London-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in a statement.

"Indonesia recorded nine incidents. Although it continues to top the table, Indonesia should be applauded for the pro-active efforts it has taken to tackle the problem," the IMB said.

Since last year, Indonesia has intensified sea patrols and seen attacks halve from 19 in the first quarter of 2006.

The maritime watchdog said while reported attacks declined globally, waters off Nigeria and Somalia "continue to give concern," IMB director Pottengal Mukundan said.

IMB said the number of attacks in Nigeria doubled to six coupled with violent attacks on seafarers, adding that 40 crew members have been taken hostage or kidnapped in the West African country.

"These have included a number of violent attacks against vessels and crew working in offshore oil installation where crew have been assaulted and abducted," it said.

The IMB urged seafarers in general to be on alert while in port since ports and anchorages were more prone to attacks.

"Balongan in Indonesia, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Lagos in Nigeria recorded four, three and four incidents respectively," it said.

Ships were also warned to sail 75 nautical miles from the Somali coastline. The IMB said the civil war made it difficult for local authorities to provide aid if a ship came under pirate attack.

Piracy in Southeast Asia's strategic Malacca Strait continued to decline with just two attacks in the first three months, it said, adding that attacks in Bangladesh had also fallen substantially to just two incidents compared with nine in the same period last year.

But the IMB last week nevertheless warned seafarers to remain on alert while sailing through the strait.

The three littoral states bordering the strait -- Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia -- have implemented several security measures, including coordinated air and sea patrols, to secure the vital waterway.

Half of the world's oil shipments travel through the strait.

Agence France Presse

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