In the first six months of last year 78 ships were boarded, 75 ships fired upon and 31 ships hijacked with some 561 crew taken hostage, 19 injured, seven kidnapped, six killed and eight missing. The Goverment has taken notice and provided guidelines to help protect maritime workers.
Guidelines developed by the Australian Government in response to the escalation in piracy - and subsequent risks for maritime workers - have been welcomed by the Maritime Union of Australia.
"The Government has to be congratulated in making the safety and rights of seafarers the most important element of the guidelines", said National Secretary Paddy Crumlin.
The Advisory Guidelines for Shipping Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery at sea are designed for Australian shipping and crew and also foreign registered vessels carrying Australian import and export cargo into or through high risk piracy and robbery at sea areas.
Minister for Transport Anthony Albanese said that while the current incidents of piracy and hijacking for ransom in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast pose a serious threat to world trade, "the potential threat to international shipping and crew from piracy and robbery at sea is one which has global proportions".
International Maritime Bureau (IMB) statistics for piracy in the first six months of 2009 are telling - 78 ships were boarded, 75 ships fired upon and 31 ships hijacked with some 561 crew taken hostage, 19 injured, seven kidnapped, six killed and eight missing.
"Accordingly, these guidelines outline the preventive measures that are recommended to be considered to detect, deter and prevent piracy and robbery at sea attacks across the world's ceans, seas and ports", said Mr Albanese.
The guidelines and best management practice, developed by the Office of the Inspector of Transport Security, cover the danger of piracy on the high seas and also within jurisdictional waters of a State - defined as armed robbery.
The physical security and total access control to the ship is fundamental to the ship's security, however the manning level of the ship will be vital to the crews ability to achieve this.
Part of the advice relates to manning levels: "Ship routines need to be adjusted sufficiently in advance to ensure well‑rested and well‑briefed crew, in sufficient numbers, are on watch to ensure an effective all around lookout can be maintained for an extended period of time.
"When in robbery at sea high risk waters, if possible, position crew to enable them to maintain a constant all round visual surveillance capability to assess small craft in close proximity to the ship ahead, on either beam and astern.
The guidance material is based on United Nations Resolutions, international shipping industry Best Management Practices, International Maritime Organization (IMO) Maritime Safety Circulars (MSC), other current industry and government information, and the findings of the Australian Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery At Sea Security Inquiry.