SHIPS sailing through Southeast Asian waters last year enjoyed some respite from marauders, according to the Business Times of Singapore. Last year, the Regional Piracy Centre in Kuala Lumpur received only eight reports of pirate attacks in the region, compared with 73 in 1992 and 107 in 1991. Piracy seems to be on the decline worldwide. The centre, which was set up in 1992 and is part of the International Maritime Bureau, received 103 reports of piracy incidents last year. By comparison, there were 107 incidents in 1992 and 115 in 1991. Most of the incidents - 76 - took place in the first half of last year. From July onwards, the number fell to just 27. Asia remained the piracy hot spot, with 81 attacks taking place on ships sailing through Asian waters. Seven other robberies occurred on vessels berthed at various Indonesian ports. While attacks in Southeast Asia have abated, more incidents have been reported in the Hong Kong-Luzon-Hainan area. Last year, 33 attacks were made on vessels passing through the area. A further 20 took place in the East China Sea, with 12 others on vessels in the South China Sea. In its latest update, the centre also said there were three reported attacks on ships in the first two weeks of this year. One was an attack on the Gyoko Maru on January 10. Three pirates boarded the vessel while it was in international waters approaching the Singapore Strait at the Philip Channel. The attackers got away with more than US$6,000 in cash. Another incident took place in the South China Sea on January 5 when 20 pirates raided the Jui Ho. They took over the vessel for 21/2 days, before escaping with more than 5,000 cartons of cigarettes. On January 11, 10 armed men wearing Chinese uniforms tried to board the Peder Most. They gave up after being unsuccessful for half an hour.