Somalia piracy still a threat, says agency

Threats of piracy on Somalia's Coast are still real, a global maritime agency has warned.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) warned foreign ships sailing near Somalia's coast to remain vigilant despite a drop in piracy attacks in the Horn of Africa.

A report released by IMB last Thursday says there was no piracy attack off the Coast of Somalia between January to March 31 this year due to preventive measures deployed by the foreign warships to thwart such attacks.

"The combined efforts of the navy troops in the region along with the increased hardening of vessels and best management practices, employment of privately contracted armed security personnel and the stabilising factor of the central government within Somalia has resulted in this positive sign," IMB said.

However, the agency said despite the lull in piracy activities in the region, Somali pirates still had the capacity to carry out attacks.

"The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre believes a single successful hijacking of a merchant vessel would rekindle the Somali pirates' passion to resume its piracy efforts," said the agency.

IMB said suspected Somali pirates continued to hold 29 crew members for ransom as at March 31.

Mombasa-based maritime consultant Andrew Mwangura told The Standard in a separate interview that the threats of piracy were still real.

"It would be foolhardy to think that the piracy menace has been wiped out completely. Lawlessness and uncertainty in mainland Somalia still makes it easy for piracy to thrive," he said.

Analysts say the combined military onslaught and a host of economic incentives targeting jobless Somali youth had dealt piracy a blow.

But a latest report highlights growing violence off the coast of West Africa, where 44 seafarers have been captured so far this year.