Piracy attacks on commercial ships continue to rise internationally, resulting in lost lives and great problems for the world’s shipping community. Oceangoing shipping sources say insurance companies are in a particularly difficult position since estimates indicate they are forced to pay about $70 billion every year to compensate for piracy offenses resulting in lost lives, goods, ship equipment or the ships themselves. The same sources note that the piracy attacks must be dealt with as seriously as terrorist attacks, since charter companies are charged much more for services because the insurance premiums for shipowners or managing companies are higher when the ships are chartered to carry cargo to areas considered dangerous for piracy. During 2004, some 30 seamen lost their lives in 325 piracy incidents, while in 2003, 21 seamen died in 445 piracy attacks. As far as Greek-interest ships are concerned, nine of them were attacked last year – a decrease from 15 vessels attacked in 2003, according to official data. International Maritime Organization (IMO) records show that the sea regions most prone to piracy attacks in 2004 were Indonesia, with 93 instances, and Nigeria, with 28 attacks. The seas around Brazil, Argentina and Panama also had problems. «We believe that the extension of the ISPS code, for the protection of ports and installations from illegal activity, to the areas where many commercial ships sail and which are considered risky for piracy attacks could contribute decisively in their reduction, in the protection of seamen as well as in the normalization of chartering rates to the dangerous areas,» sources from the Union of Greek Shipowners (EEE) told Kathimerini. Shipping and tourism Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos met yesterday in London with the Hellenic Committee for Maritime Cooperation, which represents London-based shipowners. During the meeting, he called on shipowners to invest in Greek tourism and announced that next June’s international shipping exhibition Posidonia 2006 in Piraeus will open with a major event on shipping and tourism. Participation in the exhibition has already reached record levels both in countries and in companies. The rise in tourism this year was also good news for Blue Star Maritime SA, whose group net profits recorded a 121 percent rise in the year’s first nine months compared with the same period in 2004, reaching 19.2 million euros from 8.7 million euros last year. The coastal shipping company profited from the rise in passengers and ships, which offset the reduction in services due to the sale of four old ferries.