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Maritime piracy doubled in first half of 2009: report

[JURIST] The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) [official website] reported on Wednesday that pirate attacks around the globe have doubled [press release] in the first half of 2009. The bulk of the upsurge has come from increased activity in the Gulf of Aden and Somali coastal waters, where 130 incidents occurred since January. The report attributes a lull in activity in June to poor weather conditions and said that "vigilance should nevertheless remain high during this period." IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan [professional profile, PDF] also urged a continued reporting effort in Nigeria, where there were 13 reported and 24 unreported attacks in the second quarter of 2009, mainly "against vessels supporting the oil industry." Incidents in Southeast Asia showed a two-fold increase between the first and second quarter, which Mukundan said was a "clear indication that piracy and robbery ... has the potential to escalate." Overall, the IMB says that "78 vessels were boarded worldwide, 75 vessels fired upon and 31 vessels hijacked with some 561 crew taken hostage, 19 injured, seven kidnapped, six killed and eight missing."

In May, five suspected Somali pirates went on trial [JURIST report] in Holland, accused of attempting to hijack [NRC Handelsblad report] a Dutch Antilles freighter in the Gulf of Aden. In April, a US Coast Guard chief called for the enforcement of international piracy laws [JURIST report], citing the importance of entering Somali waters to combat the problem. In March, the European Union (EU) [official website] announced an agreement with Kenya [JURIST report] to transfer suspected pirates captured by EU counter-pirate operations into Kenyan custody for prosecution. In October, the UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 1838 [text, PDF; press release], condemning all acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia, and calling on states to "deploy naval vessels and military aircraft to actively fight piracy on the high seas off the coast of Somalia." Although maritime piracy is increasingly widespread, Somalia's coast has been ranked as the most dangerous in the world [BBC report] due to a surge in attacks on ships carrying traded goods or humanitarian aid [NPR report].

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