THE waters around Hong Kong have become some of the worst in the world for attacks by pirates, according to an international maritime agency.
Regional manager of the International Maritime Bureau's anti-piracy centre Mazlan Abdul Samad said 83 attacks worldwide had been reported to the Kuala Lumpur-based offices in the first eight months of this year, compared with 69 in the same period last year.
He said 73 of the attacks took place in Asian waters, with nearly 30 of them in the triangle between China, the Philippines and Hong Kong - the new global hot-spot for piracy.
''The current danger areas are the Hong Kong-Luzon-Hainan area and the East China Sea,'' he said.
Many of the pirates disguised themselves as Chinese security officials, who had stepped up anti-smuggling operations in the area, Mr Mazlan said.
The area between Hong Kong, Luzon and Hainan had seen no pirate attacks in the first eight months of last year compared with 29 in the same period this year.
Mr Mazlan said the rise in piracy in the area had led the bureau to designate the region as the world's piracy hot-spot.
''Obviously, an increase in one year from no pirate attacks to 29 represents a very serious and significant rise and shows the area is suffering a severe outbreak of piracy,'' he said.
He added that some of the 29 pirate attacks recorded in the area around Hong Kong might have been committed by Chinese authorities and would, therefore, be regarded by some states as interceptions.
''This rash of interceptions is one of the factors we believe contributed significantly to the increase in piracy reports as it has led to a copycat syndrome occurring. As interceptions become more frequent, pirates take advantage of this to attack shipspretending to be Chinese authorities.
''Basically, they fly a Chinese flag and don Chinese uniforms in order to lay the blame for the attack on the Chinese Government.
''The only way to stop this is for China to clamp down on any illegal interceptions being conducted by their people, as well as increasing efforts to stop pirates off the coast of China,'' Mr Mazlan said.
According to Mr Mazlan, the anti-piracy centre's role is to provide information on piracy to governments and organisations and to tell authorities about reports of attacks it receives from shipping companies and captains.
''However, while urging governments to try and prevent piracy we do not recommend legislative action as that is up to individual states,'' he said.