Piracy attacks declined worldwide during the first half of the year, according to the International Maritime Bureau. But it says Somali pirates are increasing their range and capabilities.
The coast of Somalia remains a major piracy hotspot, the location of more than half this year's pirate attacks. But International Maritime Bureau Director Pottengal Mukundan says the target area is widening.
"The fact is that the Somali pirates are ranging further out than they have ever done before. We are talking of going 1,000 nautical miles [1,609 kilometers] away from the coast in order to attack ships, board them, hijack them and then bring them back into Somalia until a ransom is paid for their release," noted Mukundan.
The International Maritime Bureau recorded 196 piracy incidents in the first six months of the year - about 20 percent less than the same period last year.
In the Gulf of Aden there were 86 pirate attacks in the first half of 2009 and 33 so far this year.
Mukundan says foreign navies, which have operated in the Gulf of Aden since 2009, have been instrumental in reigning in piracy in the area. But he says piracy is more difficult to manage in the Indian Ocean.
"It is a huge, huge expanse of sea, very difficult for the navies to effectively monitor it and deal with it in the way it has been successfully dealt in the Gulf of Aden," he added.
He says he thinks by the end of 2010 the number of piracy attacks may match or even exceed the 2009 total.
"At the moment we are seeing a lull because of the southwest monsoons in the Indian Ocean, where these small pirate skiffs cannot operate," Mukundan explained. "But the southwest monsoons will subside by the end of August and then we expect the pirates to be back there trying to seize the ships."
According to the International Maritime Bureau report, the first half of the year has seen one crewmember killed, 597 crewmembers taken hostage, and 16 injured.