The world has a new piracy hotspot

BANGKOK Maybe God has a soft spot for pirates. That would explain the Strait of Malacca, a natural paradise for seafaring bandits.

Imagine an aquatic highway flowing between two marshy coasts. One shoreline belongs to Malaysia, the other to Indonesia. Each offers a maze of jungly hideaways: inlets and coves that favor pirates stealth vessels over slow, hulking ships.

Its a narrow route running 550 miles, roughly the distance between Miami and Jamaica. This bottleneck is plied by one-third of the worlds shipping trade. Thats 50,000 ships per year ferrying everything from iPads to Reeboks to half the planets oil exports.

The worlds fascination with neo-piracy now centers on Somalia. Thanks to the 2013 thriller Captain Phillips, in which Tom Hanks plays a cargo ship captain abducted by Somalis, even US teenagers know the anarchy-prone African state is a breeding ground for pirates.

At least it was. In truth, Hollywood stumbled onto Somalias piracy phenomenon rather late. In the last three years, pirate strikes in Somali waters have plummeted 95 percent to a meager seven incidents in 2013; none were successful.

Piracy in Southeast Asia, meanwhile, is accelerating. Attacks and attempted attacks in the waters of Indonesia which controls much of the Malacca Strait and its environs totaled 107 last year. Thats a 700 percent increase in just five years.

The German insurance firm Allianz, which released these figures in a new rep....

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