NATO: Somali pirates seized no ships for 6 months

FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012 file photo, a Somali soldier looks out at a Taiwanese fishing vessel that washed up on shore after the pirates were paid a ransom and released the crew, in the once-bustling pirate den of Hobyo, Somalia. A U.K.-led Piracy Ransom Task Force says the shipping industry must adopt additional measures to ensure that payments aren't made to pirates after a successful attack. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh, File)

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO officials say no ships have been hijacked off the Somali coast in the second half of this year, reflecting a sharp decrease in piracy along one of the world's busiest shipping routes.

Commodore Ben Bekkering attributed the success to the continuing efforts of an international fleet along the coastline, combined with better security measures by merchant ships and increased pressure on the pirates within Somalia itself.

About 20 vessels from NATO, the European Union, the United States, Russia, China, Japan, India and other countries regularly patrol Somalia's 1,900-mile-long (3,100-kilometer) coastline.

Bekkering, who until recently commanded NATO's four-warship flotilla in the area, says "This has been the first clean slate for a long time."

Still, he noted, pirates continue to hold five ships and 136 hostages seized in previous years.