Last year was the worst on record for piracy at sea, according to a report issued Monday.
Pirates captured 1,181 sailors aboard 53 ships in 2010, according to the report from the International Chamber of Commerce's International Maritime Bureau. Eight of the captives were killed, the report says.
Ships reported 445 pirate attacks in 2010, a 10% increase from 2009.
"These figures for the number of hostages and vessels taken are the highest we have ever seen," said Capt. Pottengal Mukundan, director of the bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre. "The continued increase in these numbers is alarming."
The waters off the coast of Somalia remain the most dangerous in the world, as 49 ships were captured there - 92% of all ships taken, according to the report.
A total of 28 vessels and 638 hostages were still being held for ransom by Somali pirates as of December 31, the report states.
Somali pirates have collected tens of millions of dollars in ransom in the past few years, the Somali newspaper Bartamaha reported.
Other hot spots in 2010 included the port of Lagos, Nigeria, the port of Chittagong in Bangladesh, the waters of Indonesia, and the South China Sea, according to the report.
One glimmer of good news in the report is that attacks in the Gulf of Aden were down by more than half. Ships reported 53 attacks in the gulf between Yemen and Somalia last year, down from 117 the year before. The maritime bureau attributes the improvement to the presence of naval ships from several countries and increased use of self-protection measures.
Piracy costs businesses and governments $7 billion to $12 billion a year in ransoms, rerouting of vessels, higher insurance premiums, security equipment, naval forces, prosecutions, lost commerce and operation of anti-piracy organizations, according to a report issued last week by the One Earth Future Foundation.
Nevertheless, the attacks continue unabated. Early Monday morning, Somali pirates captured the cargo ship MV Eagle and its crew of 24 Filipinos, the European Union Naval Force Somalia reported.
The attack occurred two days after pirates in the Gulf of Oman seized another carrier, the MV Samho Jewelry, with 21 Myanmar, South Korean and Indonesian crew members, reported the European Union Naval Force Somalia, which maintains a mapped list of currently hijacked ships.
The Samho Jewelry is owned by the same company that last year paid a record $9 million ransom to get a ship back from pirates, Korea Times reported.
“Once all diplomatic and military measures end in vain, it will be all about the money,” a senior official of the Korea Shipowners’ Association told Korea Times.
On January 6, two merchant ships fended off attacks in the same area through the use of fire hoses, razor wire and evasive maneuvers, European Union Naval Force Somalia said.
Somali pirates on Sunday released a Greek ship that had been held for six months. The MV Motivator and its crew of 18 Filipinos had been seized on the Fourth of July off the Horn of Africa.