UN chief urges fight against piracy
United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-Moon has called for more global action to combat the "alarming" increase in pirate attacks, which topped 400 last year.
Addressing a UN General Assembly conference on piracy, he said there were 406 pirate attacks in 2009, 100 more than in 2008.
The bulk of the attacks came off the coast of East Africa which saw a seven-fold increase between 2005 and 2009, he said.
Mr Ban called for a reassessment of what is working and what needs to be improved to combat piracy, adding that suspects must also be brought to justice, "not simply let go, or left to die".
He said the problem needs to specifically be addressed in Somalia, where anarchy has reigned since 1991 when warlords overthrew long-time dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other.
Britain's Rear Admiral Peter Hudson, commander of the European Union's naval counter-piracy flotilla, said since February there had been "a huge surge" in the number of Somali vessels going to sea to conduct pirate acts.
The EU and other international navies patrolling off Somalia "have interrupted, broken up, and dismantled more than 60 pirates action groups, processing somewhere over 400 suspected pirates in the last 12 weeks alone, which is three times the number of action groups that we saw last year", he said.
Rear Admiral Hudson said that while the presence of the international flotilla had reduced the number of attacks in the strategic Gulf of Aden from about 20 a month in the summer of 2009 to about four or five a month today, pirates had successfully moved the attacks further from Africa and closer to India.
Non-governmental group Ecoterra International, which monitors seajackings, estimates that 464 sailors are currently being held hostage by Somali pirates.
Rear Admiral Hudson said that since there are limited opportunities to prosecute pirates, the only alternative is to destroy their equipment so they cannot hijack any other ships and ensure that they can return home in their vessels.