Are the most dangerous waters in the world off the coast of Indonesia?

Pirate busters.
Pirate busters.
Image: Reuters
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The world is enjoying a decline in global piracy. By mid-last year, there were 177 attacks or attempted attacks on commercial vessels; this year there have been 138.

Forty-eight of those attacks happened off the coast of Indonesia, in some of the busiest shipping waters in the world. That’s more than double the number of attacks off the coast of any other country, and even then many incidents probably go unreported, according to a report from the ICC International Maritime Bureau. The second-highest number of attacks, 22, happened off the coast of Nigeria.

The statistic doesn’t necessarily make Indonesian waters the most dangerous in the world. The sheer number of attacks in Southeast Asia suggests that commercial vessels are prime targets and law enforcement is too weak to deter the attacks. But patrol boats have been successful at discouraging pirates from threatening ships in the Strait of Malacca, one of the fastest-growing shipping lanes in the world located off of Indonesia. The addition of those patrol boats has helped to reduce piracy attacks in the region.

Also, Southeast Asian pirates are less violent than those in Somalia and Nigeria. Typically armed with knives, machetes, and the occasional gun, these pirates typically stage dramatic robberies on commercial vessels, only occasionally involving armed assault.

Pirate attacks involving assault rifles are far more likely to occur in the Gulf of Guinea. The region has been beset by pirate attacks perpetrated mainly by Nigerians lately. According to the report:

Armed pirates in the Gulf of Guinea took 56 sailors hostage and were responsible for all 30 crew kidnappings reported so far in 2013. One person was reported killed and at least another five injured.