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Pirate attacks worldwide are down sharply so far in 2007

Pirates attacked 41 commercial vessels worldwide in the first three months of 2007, the lowest figure reported in the past decade, a global seafarers' watchdog said Wednesday.

The January-to-March figure is a significant drop from the same period last year when 61 attacks were reported, the London-based International Maritime Bureau said in a statement through its piracy reporting center in Malaysia.

It was the lowest first-quarter total reported by the IMB since at least 1998. The highest figure was 103 attacks in 2003, according to IMB statistics.

The IMB attributed the decline partly to crew members "taking more precautions during their transit through the hot spot areas, as well as companies adopting more in-house (security) rules and regulations for their ships."

However, the improving situation "should not induce complacency," the bureau warned, stressing that "increased vigilance has been and will always be the best form of defense."

Indonesian waters remained the world's most dangerous, accounting for nine attacks. That number did not include another two attacks in the Malacca Strait, a bustling shipping route that is shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Nevertheless, the IMB said Indonesia - which has tried to boost naval patrols across its sprawling archipelago - "should be applauded for the proactive efforts it has taken to tackle the problem," noting that there were 19 attacks in Indonesia in January-March 2006.

Bangladesh also reported a substantial on-year decline, from nine to two attacks, partly because of shorter waiting times at anchorages where many past attacks happened, the IMB said.

The IMB, however, voiced concerns about deteriorating security in Nigeria, where the number of attacks climbed on-year from four to six in the three-month period.

Other nations that suffered rising attacks were India, which had three, Sri Lanka with two, and Tanzania with three. All three had reported no attacks in the first three months of 2006.

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