Not so long ago piracy seemed to have been banished to the history books. The name itself conjured up images of bearded toothless men with eye-patches, wooden legs and parrots on their shoulders. However, piracy never really went away and in 2008 in the anarchic state of Somalia pirates found they had the perfect opportunity to attack ships using the busy shipping lanes heading through the Suez Canal. Armed with automatic weapons and using small, fast boats, Somali pirates have held ships and people hostage or simply taken what they could from onboard.
2011 was the year that saw the most attacks – 176.
149 pirates have been captured and transferred to countries to be prosecuted since 2008. 95 have been convicted.
There have been just three attacks so far in 2013 (correct as of May 2).
Two ships and a total of 60 hostages are currently being held by Somali pirates.
The European Union set up the EU Navfor Somalia in 2008 to help counter the growth of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.
Since 2008 there have been a total of 575 pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia.
Ten ships and three planes from EU member countries are currently deployed to counter the threat of piracy off Somalia.
In 2012 EU naval forces made their only raid on pirates on mainland Somalia, destroying several boats. There were no casualties.
Many shipping firms have begun employing private security firms to protect their ships. The guards deployed to the ships are usually heavily armed.
Somalia has 1880 miles (3020 kilometres) of coastline on the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden.
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