According to the latest annual report by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the number of ship-hijackings involving complete vessel capture and removal, doubled from 8 to 16 cases worldwide.

This increase was despite a promising fall of 27 per cent, to 335, in the total number of pirate attacks and the ICC believes the increase in hijackings is due to greater involvement by organised crime syndicates with ships now being 'stolen to order.'

In the past, pirate attacks usually consisted of boarding, robbery of money and/or valuable cargo, then getaway. The latest trend is different - with the perpetrators having the resources to take a ship, unload its cargo and then provide the ship with a new identity.

On one occasion last year, a ship loaded with tin and pepper valued at $2 million was stolen and its captain and crew left abandoned on an uninhabited Indonesian island.

Furthermore, the menace is spreading west from the traditional areas of East Asia to the Middle East region and Africa.

Pottengal Mukundan, Director of ICC's Commercial Crime Services, said: "The hijacking of a whole ship and the resale of its cargo requires huge resources and detailed planning.

"It typically involves a mother ship from which to launch the attacks, a supply of automatic weapons, false identity papers for the crew and vessel, fake cargo documents and a broker network to sell the stolen goods illegally - individual pirates do not have these resources - hijackings are the work of organised crime-rings!"

The report by the ICC also highlights the growing risk to tankers as targets for piracy and it advocates security as a top priority for the maritime industry.

The instance of use of firearms by pirates also showed a sharp increase to 71 from 53 in 2000, while the number of attacks involving knives fell from 132 to 105.

The number of seafarers killed during such attacks fell to 21 in 2001 from 75 in 2000. But a growing trend in the kidnapping of seafarers for ransom was highlighted in the report, particularly in the Indonesian region.

Aden terminal reports 52 per cent growth: Figures released by Yeminvest, the company that developed the Aden Container Terminal (ACT) for the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA), show a 52 per cent surge in business volume to 377,400 TEU during 2001.

According to a company statement, the rapid growth is due to the rising popularity of Aden among the international shipping lines as a hub port and its ability to attract transhipment traffic.

Richard Cheong, chief executive, Yeminvest, thanked customers and the Yemen authorities for their support.

He added that ACT would continue as a very customer-focused company, tailoring its services to meet the unique needs of each of the shipping lines and to provide them with fast and cost-effective services.

"PSA will also work hand-in-hand with the Yemen authorities to make ACT a world-class regional transhipment hub," he said. Aden container terminal became fully operational in 1999.

Salalah-Tuticorin service commences: Maersk Sealand has started its own dedicated weekly feeder service between Salalah and Tuticorin. The service has two vessels - Maersk Aberdeen and Maersk Atlantic, each with a capacity of 1,100 TEU.

The Maersk Atlantic made its maiden call to Tuticorin on February 5 and an inaugural ceremony took place attended by the chairman of Tuticorin Port trust, the managing director of PSA Sical Terminals Ltd., and other officials.

Maersk Sealand is a subsidiary of the A.P. Moller group and is a partner with the Oman government, and private Oman investors, in the development of Salalah Free Zone.

Salalah Port services (SPS) has also recently signed an agreement with BP Marine to provide a fuelling facility at Salalah as part of the recently announced $200 million expansion of Salalah Port, which is seen by SPS' chief executive, Jack Helton, as a direct competitor with the UAE hub ports.

Salalah, which opened in 1998 at a cost of $260 million, is to have a final annual capacity of 3.1 million TEU. It currently handles 2.2 million from four berths.

Two further berths are planned in the expansion, together with a breakwater extension and other improved facilities.

Marine bodies make joint submission to IMO: A number of marine industry organisations (OCIMF, Bimco, Intercargo, Intertanko and IACS) have submitted a joint document to the 10th Session of the IMO Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation (FSI) regarding a 'continuous synopsis record' for ships.

Last October, at the Intertanko Council meeting in Athens, it was agreed that member vessels should carry specific historical information to be readily available in case of an accident or significant incident.

Subsequently the other bodies joined in with their support that facilitated the joint submission. The UK government has also endorsed the proposal.

The submission proposes that all ships should carry a 'continuous synopsis record' in order to provide information on the ship's history, in a transparent manner, to all interested parties. The record shall include information such as name, flag, registered owner, DOC holder, class society, ISM certification issuer, and so on.

Singapore bunker scandal continues: Corruption in Singapore's billion-dollar bunker industry has again hit the headlines, this time involving eleven bunker surveyors who were fined last week. The fines ranged from S$4,000 to S$65,000 and concerned bribes made by Navi Marine, a local fuel supplier, whose licence has now been suspended.

The surveyors had accepted bribes and falsely certified the amounts or grades of fuel supplied to ships at Singapore.

A further 26 surveyors remain under investigation, and it is expected that more charges, under Singapore's Prevention of Corruption Act, are to be brought by the Corrupt Practices Bureau.

The troubled Singapore bunker industry was rocked last year, when allegations of contaminated fuel prompted an investigation that currently continues, and the Singapore Port Authority has strengthened regulations on excessive air blowing.

The bribery scandal was first publicised two weeks ago when five surveyors were convicted of similar charges involving the same bunker company.

The problems involving fuel fraud are known to be widespread in many ports around the world, with ship owners often incurring losses with resignation.

The stance being taken by the Singapore authorities is seen as a positive step that will benefit the industry in the long term.