Even if one of their number is surrounded by a half-dozen heavily-armed American warships in a tense stand-off, pirates on Somalia’s coast seem as eager as ever for plunder.

Armed Somali pirates attacked four ships, including an Italian crude-oil tanker, in what a maritime piracy watchdog said on Friday was a “critical level” of attacks in the Gulf of Aden.

“It is one of the highest number of attacks in a single day in the same area,” said Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur.

He said the vessels were attacked on October 1 by Somali pirates armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades in the notorious waterway.

“We are warning ships to be on high alert. Pirates are attacking ships almost every day. It is at a critical level now,” he said.

“Three hijacked vessels were released a few days ago and it now appears this group of Somali pirates are looking for ships to hijack again.”

For the sailors out there, check out IMB’s “Weekly Piracy Report” and, through reader Franklin, these observations on how to navigate pirate-infested waters, as well as this neat Google map of pirate activity.

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