DUBAI // Monitoring the activities of pirates and anticipating their plans is the key to staying ahead in the fight against piracy.

Industry experts taking part in a piracy session at the Seatrade Middle East Maritime conference in Dubai cautioned that the drop in piracy attacks this year should not make seafarers complacent.

"It is certainly important to monitor pirates' activities and behaviour and to remain one step ahead in anticipating their next moves," said Steven Jones, of the Security Association for the Maritime Industry, the industry's regulatory body. "Now is not the time to pull back from the tactics which have worked but to evolve and enhance them. Complacency and a belief that the 'job is done' will only aid the pirates."

Naval patrols, armed guards on merchant vessels and antipiracy tactics have helped deter attacks.

Last year, there were 176 attacks. As of the end of last month, there had been 35 this year, EU Naval Force statistics show. Five ships and 143 seamen are still being held hostage by Somali pirates.

But experts warned raids could be stepped up after a lull during the monsoon season. Somali pirates are known for adopting new strategies, such as taking over fishing boats and using them to approach ships without arousing suspicion.

"As we go into the new year, history dictates that we will see an increase in attacks," said Jon Bamford, the managing director of Unity SPS, a maritime security company in Dubai.

"We're coming out of a bad monsoon. February to April are the peak periods so, sadly, what we're going to see is piracy coming back because the weather has stopped them over the last few months."