While piracy rages unabated in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia, attacks on the other side of the Indian Ocean in the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea have steadily dwindled largely because Southeast Asian nations have banded together to fight that scourge of the sea.
During the first quarter of 2009, attacks in Southeast Asian waters were down to nine, compared with 41 during the same period of 2004, according to the International Maritime Bureau. The IMB, with headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, said pirates attacked 63 ships off Somalia or in the Gulf of Aden in this period. The best known, of course, was the Maersk Alabama captained by Richard Phillips.
The director of the IMB, Pottengal Mukundan, said this surge of piracy off Somalia was worrisome "principally because attacks have taken place many hundreds of miles off the country's coastline. The problem of Somali piracy has now spilled over to neighboring countries, threatening trade routes into their ports."
In contrast, only one incident was reported during this quarter in the Malacca Strait. A seagoing Singaporean tug towing a barge was boarded by 12 pirates with rifles who stole navigation and communications equipment, plus money and personal belongings of the crew. The pirates kidnapped the tug's master and first officer and fled. The two were later freed after the owner paid an unspecified ransom.