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Shippers avoid new pirate hotspot in waters west of Philippines

Staff Writer |
A surge in piracy to the west of the Philippines is forcing shipowners to divert vessels through other waters.

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There have been 16 attacks since last March on ships in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, through which about $40 billion worth of cargo passes each year, according to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP).

That government-backed anti-piracy organisation says over a dozen crew are currently being held hostage by Filipino Abu Sayyaf militants, all from ships sailing through the Sulu and Celebes Seas.

"The Sulu/Celebes area is the world's fastest growing piracy hotspot, with violent attacks on commercial vessels and their crews, and an increasingly successful kidnap and ransom business model," said Gerry Northwood, chief operating officer at armed guard company Maritime Asset Security and Training (MAST).

The International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur has also warned of the rising threat of armed pirates in these waters, with shipping companies starting to shy away.

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