An influential group of MPs is to investigate the government's strategy to tackle rising levels of piracy on the high seas.

The Commons Transport Sub Committee will study the effects on British shipping of a "significant" increase in the number of attacks over the past two decades.

According to the International Maritime Organisation, the number of incidents has risen from fewer than 50 a year in the 1980s to 325 in 2004.

Since 1993, there have been only two incidents of actual or attempted piracy in UK ports and waters, both on ships berthed at Goole, East Yorkshire, in July 2002.

There were 32 incidents involving UK flagged ships elsewhere in the world between 1993 and 2004, of which seven occurred in 2004.

The Transport Sub Committee, chaired by firebrand MP, Gwyneth Dunwoody, will evaluate the government's anti-piracy strategy, which was drawn up in March 2005.

This promised that the government would provide protective advice to UK seafarers and assist foreign states with particular problems.