New stats reveal

Piracy attacks are now at their highest level since records began. In 2010 pirates attacked 1,181 mariners and killed eight, hijacking more than 50 vessels, according to the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau. The situation is worst off Somalia, which accounted for 92 percent of all ship seizures last year.

International attention, including the Navy’s now two-year-old Combined Task Force 151 and two European task forces, has decreased attacks in the Gulf of Aden. Navy officials said there are 34 warships, under 15 different national flags, now patrolling the gulf area.

But the pirates are pushing further out. The killing of four US yachtsmen aboard their 58ft yacht Quest is an example of the new pattern: Somali pirates used a ‘mother ship’ a larger vessel they’d hijacked earlier, as a base to extend their skiff attacks northward into the Arabian Sea.

The pirates attack ships are like Russian dolls: they decrease in size as the strategy becomes tactic: from oil tankers to dhows (both already hi-jacked from western or Yemeni sources respectively) down to the attack skiffs which are dories.