SAFETY AT SEA 20 | telegraph | nautilusint.org
| September 2011
Above left: two pirate skiff s after being shelled by naval forces off Somalia and, right, a coalition warship and a helicopter go to the aid of a merchant vessel under attack Pictures: US Navy
War on piracy ‘is paying off ’
The fi ght against piracy is showing signs of success, International
Maritime Organisation secretary- general Efthimios Mitropoulos has claimed. In a presentation at the IMO headquarters in London, Mr Mit- ropoulos gave a progress report on the organisation’s ‘action plan’ to combat the problem, which was launched in February. So far, the IMO leader sug- gested, the signs are positive.
International Maritime Organisation’s leader gives a positive progress report on campaign to cut attacks on ships …
When the IMO campaign began, there were 33 ships and 733 seafarers being held by the pirates — by the end of July the number was down to 21 ships and 448 sea- farers.
Even better, Mr Mitropoulos added, the pirates’ strike rate is diminishing. ‘The ratio of success- ful attacks has reduced from 50% in August 2008 to below 20% now,’ he stated. ‘In the fi rst six months
of this year, of 187 attacks only 22 resulted in hijack, indicating that 88% of attacks are being defeated — largely by proper application of best management practice.’ Despite these encouraging trends, Mr Mitropoulos said he had some concerns about the risk of potential ‘worst case scenarios’ — including a successful attack on a cruiseship, a hijacked fully- laden VLCC going aground or col- liding, or seafarers refusing to sail into high-risk areas. Mr Mitropoulos pointed out
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that the Gulf of Aden is the world’s third busiest shipping lane and it is unacceptable that traffi c using such a strategic and economically vital waterway is at risk. He expressed concern at the economic and environmental impact of widescale ship diver- sions to avoid piracy hotspots. Studies show that the costs of piracy already amount to between US$7bn and $12bn a year, he said, and if the situation becomes so bad that ships have to be re-routed around the Cape of Good Hope there would be an additional need for some 750 tonnes of fuel per ship and an extra 2,335 tonnes of
CO2 emitted from the additional fuel burnt by each vessel.
Describing piracy as a ‘stain upon 21st century civilisation’, he said the
IMO had received reports of more than 6,000 incidents of piracy or armed robbery against ships in the past 29 years. Widespread under-reporting means the true fi gure could be three times that number, he added.
Mr Mitropoulos told the Tele- graph he was concerned about the increasing levels of violence being used by Somali pirates. ‘They have become more aggressive, auda- cious, and better organised,’ he pointed out.
And he agreed there are reasons
to be worried about the growth in attacks off the west coast of Africa. ‘However, piracy off Somalia is unique,’ he stressed. ‘There is no other country in Africa or around the world that does not have a cen- tral federal government, navy and coastguard to exercise control over its coastline.’ The IMO leader revealed that
he had written to NATO seeking an increase in the number of war- ships deployed on anti-piracy duties — but the ‘unfortunate
IMO leader Efthimios Mitropoulos says the campaign against piracy is getting results Picture: Andrew Linington
coincidence of the crisis in Libya’ had meant the naval forces had been reduced.
Mr Mitropoulos has also writ- ten to the head of the United Nations, calling for countries to show stronger political will to eradicate piracy and to make more naval ships and aircraft available.
capacity-building, information sharing and training.
X atio of
successful attacks has reduced from 50% in August 2008 to below 20% now
He said the IMO has also been in discussions with the Red Cross and Red Crescent organisations on ways to provide better support for seafarers and families trauma- tised by piracy incidents. And Dr Rosalie Balkin, the
IMO’s director of legal affairs, said a lot of work has been put in at UN level into closing loopholes in the law so that pirates are brought to justice — including efforts to establish special courts in the region and uniform investigative procedures.
Captain Phil Holihead, head of
the IMO’s counter-piracy project implementation unit, said 18 countries in the area had signed an agreement to work together to suppress piracy through
The agreement sets a long-term aim of fusing all AIS and coastal radars
into a common picture, he added. There is also support for the devel- opment of local maritime secu- rity forces and NATO has agreed to assist in the training of coast- guards in the region.
Mr Mitropoulos said a key
objective of the IMO campaign is to review and improve the guidelines to fl ag states and sea- farers and promote compliance with industry best management practices and the recommended preventive, evasive and defensive measures ships should follow. Although it has agreed interim recommendations and guidance on the carriage of armed guards, the IMO’s opposition to the con- cept continues, he added. The use of privately contracted armed security personnel remains a mat- ter for the shipowner to request and the fl ag state to decide, based upon a thorough risk assessment. Concerns include the potential for escalation of violence and the possibility that weapons could be an attractive target for pirates, as well as the risk of accidents and the potentially adverse conse- quences of killing someone even if acting in self-defence.
Mr Mitropoulos said action
had also been taken to improve the security of World Food Pro- gramme relief shipments to Somalia. Chartering larger and faster ships for the aid cargoes can help to reduce the number of naval vessels needed for escort duties, he pointed out, and the use of vessel protection detachments is also being examined.
He said the IMO is determined
to see that its ‘Piracy: orchestrat- ing the response’ campaign deliv- ers results. ‘This is not a publicity stunt,’ he said. ‘We mean business and my personal position is that if, at the end of the year, the number of ships and seafarers in the hands of the pirates is higher than at the beginning of the year it will be a year wasted because the pirates would be seen as having the upper hand.’
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