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West Africa Pirates Seen Greater Threat as Somali Attacks Drop

West African piracy poses the greatest threat to the crews of merchant ships for the first time as navies and guards reduce attacks from Somalia, said organizations including the International Maritime Bureau.

Pirates off West Africa attacked 966 seafarers and captured 206 in 2012, compared with 851 attacked and 349 seized near Somalia, the Oceans Beyond Piracy project of the One Earth Future Foundation, the London-based IMB and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Program said in a report today. Somali attacks dropped 78 percent from 2011, while tallies for West Africa were published for the first time, the report showed. Five people were killed in each region.

Ships off West Africa lack protection from navies, armed guards and shore-based police like those that helped reduce Somali attacks to the lowest in data going back to 2010, according to the report. Owners and operators may not be reporting attacks because authorities are less likely to respond, the organizations said. The economic cost was between $740 million and $950 million in 2012, compared with as much as $6.1 billion near Somalia, figures showed.

“The specific challenges posed by piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea region are not as clearly understood,” the organizations said in the report. “Ship owners and operators are generally left to their own devices in developing self-defense measures, which creates greater vulnerability to pirate attacks.”

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