LONDON Acts of piracy jumped 11 percent in 2008 driven by an unprecedented wave of attacks by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said on Friday.
Hijackings and hostage taking on the world's oceans rose to record levels mainly driven by attacks on merchant shipping off Somalia which rose two fold, the London-based IMB said in its annual report.
It said attacks rose to 293 worldwide last year with 32 mariners wounded, 11 killed and 21 missing, presumed dead.
IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan said 42 ships were hijacked and 815 crew taken hostage in waters off Somalia and the Gulf of Aden in 2008.
As of December 31 he said Somali pirates were holding 13 ships for ransom and 242 crew hostage.
Pirates pose a growing threat to shipping off the African coast, forcing insurance prices to rise and bringing naval vessels form an unprecedented 14 countries including China, India and Russia to protect shipping.
Mukundan said he was encouraged by efforts to tackle piracy.
"International navies are the only ones capable of an effective response against piracy in the region and can help to secure the safety and security of this major maritime trade route," he said.
The IMB said attacks peaked off Somalia in September with 19 incidents. In October and November there were 15 and 16 ships attacked respectively, it said.
Nigeria ranked second in the world for attacks with 40 reported incidents, including 27 vessels boarded, five hijackings and 39 crew members kidnapped.
The IMB also said it was aware of approximately 100 further unconfirmed incidents that have occurred in Nigeria.
"Under-reporting from vessels involved in incidents in the Nigerian waters remains a great concern," the IMB said.
Attacks in Indonesia fell. "Compared to 2003 when 121 attacks were reported, there has been a continued year-on-year decline with 28 incidents reported in 2008, the majority of which were opportunistic, low-level attacks," the IMB said.
(Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi; editing by Elizabeth Piper)