In 2008, piracy off the coast of Somalia rose nearly 200 percent compared to the previous year.

There has been a great increase in attacks over greater distances. According to the annual report from International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center (PRC), Somalia and the Gulf of Aden were the worst areas for piracy in 2008.

It said 42 vessels were hijacked there and 815 crew members taken hostage -- more than any place else in the world.

The increased ability of pirates to sail farther out to sea, coupled with the inability of the Somali government to respond, led to what the report called an unprecedented rise in piracy in the area.

The problems off the Somali coast contributed to a global rise in piracy, which was up 11 percent in 2008 from the year before, the report said.

The 2008 statistics surpass all figures recorded by the PRC since it began its worldwide reporting function in 1991, said IMB Director Captain Pottengal Mukundan.

Worldwide in 2008, a total of 49 vessels were hijacked and 889 crew members taken hostage, the report said. Eleven crew members were killed and 21 others are missing and presumed dead.

Pirates are better armed and prepared and are able to target every kind of vessel. They are easily able to assault and injure the crew.

Incidents involving guns nearly doubled from 72 in 2007 to 139 last year.

Pirate attacks last year included the hijacking of the largest ship ever taken by pirates, an oil supertanker called the Sirius Star.

The giant ship together with its 23-man crew was seized in November and only last week was it released following a $3.5 million ransom payment. The carrier's crew was released unharmed.

Last year's uptick in hijackings off East Africa has already spurred a number of international navies to patrol the Gulf of Aden.

Mukundan said he hoped that more governments would authorize their naval forces to patrol the region.

International navies are the only ones capable of effective response against piracy in the region and can help to secure the safety and security of this major maritime trade route, Mukundan said.

The second raking country in world piracy is Nigeria. Last year there were 40 reported incidents including five hijackings and 39 crew members kidnapped.

The main difference between the East and West African pirate activities is that almost all the incidents in Nigeria are conducted within its territorial waters, whereas most of the incidents along the East coast of Africa and the Gulf of Aden occur on the high seas, the report said.

That means vessels in the Gulf area have a much harder time staying away from pirate-infested waters.

The two different countries have differing motives. In Somalia; the motives are financial whereas in Nigeria the motives are at least partly political, the report said.

Many pirating cases in the Nigerian waters go un-reported.

Some areas of the world where piracy occurs noted a decline in their cases. Indonesia was one such country.