Sea piracy worldwide fell by 54 per cent in the first half of 2012, led by a dramatic drop in Somali piracy, an international maritime watchdog said on Monday.

The International Maritime Bureau attributed the sharp drop to “pre-emptive and disruptive counter piracy tactics” by international navies patrolling in seas off Somalia as well as increased vigilance by ships including hiring private armed personnel on board.

The bureau said 177 attacks were reported worldwide from January to June, down from 266 in the same period last year. It said 20 vessels were hijacked worldwide, with 334 crew members taken hostage and at least four crew members killed.

Attacks off Somalia’s coast plunged to 69 in the first six months, down from 163 over the same period a year ago, it said. Somali pirates also hijacked fewer vessels with 13 seized, down from 21. “The naval actions play an essential role in frustrating the pirates. There is no alternative to their continued presence,” said IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan. He warned that Somali pirates remained a serious threat, with 11 vessels and 218 crew members still in their hands as of late June. The bureau said the decline in Somali piracy was partially offset by intensified and violent attacks in the Gulf of Guinea off western Africa, where 32 cases including five hijackings were reported, up from 25 in the first half last year. Elsewhere, the bureau said attacks have mainly been armed robberies, with Indonesia reporting 32 cases, up from 21 a year ago.

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