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Upsurge of piracy in E. African waters

The International Maritime Bureau, a division of ICC Commercial Crime Services, reports an upsurge of pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia and in Brazilian ports.

At the same, the IMB is concerned about the persistence of piracy is Southeast Asian waters. Ships are being advised to take particular care in transiting waters between the South China Sea and the Java Sea.

Relatively heavy weaponry, such as mortars and rocket propelled grenades, is being used against vessels sailing in East African waters. The IMB says vessels are being advised to remain at least 50 nautical miles offshore when transiting the coastal regions of Somalia.

In recent incidents, pirates off Somalia are misrepresenting themselves as coast guards, or they may even be corrupt law enforcement officials.

Their deception often begins with voice warnings, followed by firing and strafing a vessel with automatic weapons. Industry experts believe some attacks are aimed at gaining control of a ship in order to seize others, because the pirates' own craft are too small and slow to be effective.

In a recent incident, pirates attacked a British registered racing yacht off the coast of Somalia on April 5. A small craft fired a mortar at the "Longo Barda" in the Gulf of Aden, and some of the crew attempted to board the yacht. However, they quickly fled when a container ship and a Canadian Navy vessel came to the yacht's rescue.

Problems in Brazil have been highlighted in recent months by the United States, which is growing increasingly concerned about armed gangs attacking vessels in the country's ports.

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