ITF presses need for action against piracy
22 June 2012The ITF has reiterated the call for greater international action to tackle piracy at its 2012 Asia-Pacific seafarers and fisheries committee meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, 11-14 June. The meeting called for greater action against the continuing pirate attacks on merchant shipping.
Issues of contention in tackling piracy include the use of private armed security guards on board ships as deterrents, and the payment of ransoms to free hostages. Some countries, such as the UK and Denmark, refuse to back the payment of ransoms to release their citizens.
An international taskforce, convened by the UK, is currently considering ways to prevent the payment of ransoms and alternative strategies to release seafarers held captive. It is due to report to the British parliament in the autumn. The maritime union Nautilus has joined the British Chamber of Shipping in calling on the UK government to allow commercial organisations to pay ransoms at their discretion. Foreign office minister Henry Bellingham says: "The UK has not banned the payment of ransoms but we do not encourage or facilitate payment either.”
Meanwhile, Somali pirates have released a South African couple held hostage for 20 months, and for whom they had demanded a ransom of US$10 million. Somali army and security forces rescued Deborah Calitz and Bruno Pelizzari in an operation that started on 20 June. The couple had been kidnapped in October 2010 while they were crewing a yacht sailing from Tanzania to South Africa. The yacht's captain had been rescued by the European Union's anti-piracy force. No information on the payment of a ransom has been disclosed.
In an incident, on 20 June pirates hijacked a dhow and seven crew 13 nautical miles off Oman. However, the Iranian navy is reported to have foiled an attempted hijack of an Iranian cargo vessel just 90 miles south of the Indian port of Cochin. The naval forces intervened with "heavy firepower" after the vessel came under attack by eight pirate speedboats.
Figures from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) worldwide piracy reporting centre indicate that Somali pirates currently hold captive about 11 vessels and 157 hostages. Hostages continue to include seven Indian seafarers from the Asphalt Venture and four South Koreans from the Gemini, still held captive despite the payment of ransoms.
The latest incidents worldwide reported to the IMB include:
- Pirates armed with guns and rocket-propelled grenade fired on a tanker 35 nautical miles off Masirah Island, Oman on 20 June, but the master enforced anti-piracy measures and managed to evade boarding.
- Six skiffs with up to 36 pirates approached a bulk carrier in the Gulf of Aden on 18 June. The master raised the alarm, increased speed, altered course and sent a distress message. The onboard armed security team fired eight warning flares and then six warning shots before the pirates moved away.
- Robbers boarded a tanker anchored at Kuching, Malaysia on 17 June, broke open containers, stole the cargo and escaped.
- Robbers boarded a bulk carrier anchored at Kakinada, India on 17 June. The alarm was raised and the ship's whistle sounded continuously. The robbers moved off and a new mooring rope was found partially hacked into small pieces on the deck.
- A skiff with seven pirates approached a tanker in the Red Sea on 12 June. The master authorised the armed team to fire warning shots. A further two skiffs later approached the tanker, and the armed team again showed their weapons, fired rocket flares and then warning shots. A surveillance aircraft arrived at the location.
- Robbers boarded a bulk carrier anchored at El Dekheila, Egypt on 10 June and escaped with stolen stores after the alarm was raised.
- Four boats chased a chemical tanker off Al Bulaydah, Oman on 9 June. The master raised the alarm and took evasive manoeuvres, and crew mustered in the citadel. The ship's whistle was sounded continuously and the searchlight directed at one boat, which moved away. The remaining three boats moved away after the master took anti-piracy preventive measures and directed the searchlight at them.
- A fishing trawler and four skiffs chased a vehicle carrier in the Gulf of Aden on 9 June. The master raised the alarm, increased speed, altered course and activated the fire pump, and the crew mustered in the bridge. The skiffs followed the ship but later moved away.
All attacks and suspicious sightings should be reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre, Tel: +603 2031 0014 (24 hours), Email: firstname.lastname@example.org