Pirates took a record 1,181 hostages in 2010 as ship hijackings in waters off Somalia escalated, a global maritime watchdog said on Tuesday.
Attackers seized 53 vessels worldwide last year — all but four off the coast of Somalia — according to the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur.
The number of hostages and vessels taken “are the highest ever seen” since the centre began monitoring attacks in 1991, its director, Pottengal Mukundan, said in a statement. “The continued increase in these numbers is alarming,” he said.
Somali pirates are currently holding 31 vessels and 713 crew members of various nationalities after hijacking another four ships so far this year, it said.
Overall, there were 445 pirate attacks worldwide last year, a 10% rise from 2009, the center said.
Eight crew members, of attacked ships, died — all attributed to Somali pirates.