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Pirate attacks on the rise in 2020: watchdog

Pirate attacks on the rise in 2020: watchdog
The Gulf of Guinea is considered among the world's most dangerous waters for piracy

Pirate attacks on ships around the world rose 20 percent last year driven by a record streak of hijackings in West Africa, a maritime watchdog said on Wednesday, urging increased maritime patrols.

A total of 195 incidents of piracy and armed robbery were reported, up from 162 in 2019, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in its annual report.

Of the 135 sailors kidnapped around the world last year, 130 of them were registered in the Gulf of Guinea off West Africa, the highest number of crew members kidnapped in the region.

The gulf stretches for thousands of kilometers from Angola in the south to Senegal in the north, and its waters are considered among the most dangerous in the world for piracy.

IMB Director Michael Howlett said the increase in kidnappings showed "the increasing capabilities of pirates in the Gulf of Guinea with more and more attacks taking place further offshore."

Pirates have gone from hijacking tankers for oil to the most lucrative kidnapping of sailors for ransom in recent years, added Noel Choong, head of the Kuala Lumpur-based IMB piracy reporting center.

Choong said kidnappings are increasing at an "alarming rate" and called on West African countries to step up patrols.

The Gulf of Guinea now eclipsed the Gulf of Aden, off Somalia, as the piracy hot spot in Africa.

The countries of the region, with the help of the United States and France, have been trying for several years to increase collaboration and strengthen their means of intervention.

Home to the two major oil producers in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria and Angola, piracy there has seriously disrupted international shipping lanes and cost the global economy billions of dollars.

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