Piracy on the Rise Again in Strait of Malacca

Recent attacks on Japanese and U.N.-chartered vessels signal resurgence of piracy in volatile region.

A Japanese cargo ship foiled an attempted pirate attack on July 4 in the Strait of Malacca off Indonesia's Sumatra island. This event comes on the heels of pirate raids on two U.N.-chartered vessels in the same area on July 2.

The Strait of Malacca was one of the most pirate-infested areas in the world before beefed-up naval patrols by Indonesia and neighboring countries caused attacks to fall in 2005.

An alert duty officer on the Japanese ship thwarted the attempted attack by raising an alarm and rousing the crew to immediate action.

In the earlier attacks, pirates were able to board the two U.N. ships, which were carrying construction material for the reconstruction of tsunami-hit Aceh. No crewmembers were injured in any of the episodes, but the pirates stole and damaged equipment on one U.N. boat and robbed the crew of cash and personal items on the other.

The attacks raised concerns about a resurgence of piracy in the strait, which sees more than 50,000 ships every year that carry half the world's oil and a third of its commerce. The Bush administration asserts that terrorists could link up with pirates already established in the narrow waterway to blow up oil tankers or to create floating bombs.