World sea piracy fell for a third straight year in 2013, as Somali pirates were curbed by international naval patrols and improved ship vigilance, an international maritime watchdog said Wednesday.
The International Maritime Bureau said global pirate attacks fell to a six-year low of 264, down from 297 in 2012 and 439 in 2011. Pirate attacks have declined since hitting a peak in 2010 with 445 attacks.
A total of 12 vessels were hijacked, with more than 300 crew members taken hostage and one killed during 2013, according to data compiled by the London-based bureau's piracy reporting centre in Malaysia.
"The single biggest reason for the drop in worldwide piracy is the decrease in Somali piracy off the coast of East Africa," said IMB director, Capt. Pottengal Mukundan.
The bureau said only 15 attacks were reported off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, the lowest since 2006. It was also down sharply from 75 cases in 2012 and 237 in 2011. It said the 15 incidents included two hijacked vessels, both which were released within a day as a result of naval actions.
Somali pirates have been deterred by international navies, stronger vessels, the use of private armed security teams and the stabilizing influence of Somalia's central government, it said.
"It is imperative to continue combined international efforts to tackle Somali piracy. Any complacency at this stage could rekindle pirate activity," Mukundan said.
The IMB said West African piracy however, took a turn for the worse and accounted for 19 per cent of global attacks last year.
Nigerian pirates accounted for 31 of the region's 51 attacks, more than in any year since 2008, it said. Nigerian pirates ventured far into waters off Gabon, Ivory Coast and Togo, where they were linked with at least five of the region's seven reported vessel hijackings, it said.
Across the Indonesian archipelago, the IMB said piracy has surged but were mainly "low-level opportunistic thefts." A total of 106 cases were reported, up from 81 in 2012, it said. The IMB said it was working closely with Indonesian marine police, who have increased patrols and designated safe anchorage areas for use in higher risk ports.
Nine cases were reported each in the Singapore Straits and in Malaysian waters, it said.
The IMB said attacks in India and Bangladesh were also petty thefts. South Asian piracy has increased since 2010, hitting 14 incidents last year but active patrolling by Bangladesh's coast guard kept incidents off Chittagong at around 12 for the last few years, it said.