Somali pirates may make more profits in the coming year, and the seafarers they hold hostage face longer, harsher terms.
Although pirates are carrying out fewer attacks and succeeding less often - in part because ships are defending themselves better - they are managing to extract more money per ship.
Average ransoms jumped to US$5.4 million (Dh19.8m) in 2011 from $4m the year before, and will likely rise further as shipowners consent to higher demands - sometimes more than $10m - and raise the bar for everyone else, said Tim Stear, global director of maritime security for the consultancy Control Risks.
He said that while the pirates captured half as many ships in 2011 (14, down from 27 in 2010), they collected higher sums ($140m, up from $82m).
As they hold out for larger payments, pirates are being harsher on hostages: holding them longer, beating them and intimidating the captives and their families with death threats. These tactics are expected to continue in 2012.