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Piracy - Part of the Solution?

23 December, 2010

More and more owners are turning to the use of private security company supplied armed guards to help provide a safe passage for their vessels against acts of piracy. In the seas off Somalia, in spite of the best efforts of multinational navies piracy continues (weather permitting) unabated. It will be said that such owners are taking the law into their own hands. However, with little else being done to end the scourge, they are acting to protect the well being of their companies and at the same time those they totally rely on to run their commerce.

In spite of this huge menace and threat to the general wellbeing of society and to seafarers in particular, the world’s leaders are content to continue with weak semantic political platitudes that only result in bolstering piracy attacks and swelling the coffers of the “Mr. Bigs” behind them.

The almost instantaneous release of suspects allows them back into the fold, armed with both more experience and weapons, rejoining the packs of seaborne jackals to prey yet again on unarmed merchant vessels and their largely unprotected seafarers. Release because of “lack of evidence” or unwillingness to prosecute against apprehended suspects is commonplace and disheartening to both the captors and those they are there to protect.

Consider post 9/11 2001. Captured terrorist suspects, were consigned and held in what is now considered to be somewhat infamous, Guantanamo. A pre election promise of the world’s most powerful president was to close it down, yet half way through his term, it has not happened, why? He has come to realize that those still held there really do pose a serious threat to all of humankind. Thus, it remains in service, in spite of ill-informed whimpering “do-gooders,” baying to protect violators of society. Yet, they do nothing to protect the common sense rights of those innocents made to suffer at the cruel hands of those who most foully prey on them.

Face Of Shipping’s George Hoyt has voiced the idea of using prison ships to hold pirates and suspects to prevent them from continuing to practice their evil art. Sadly, there does not seem to be such a vessel currently on the market.

Let the world, led by the Industry call on the United Nations Security Council to raise an emergency resolution, (they have the power, but do they have the will?) to charter an accommodation vessel or vessels if need be to serve as an international facility. Detention of pirates and suspects, at least the Somali based ones, would easily become possible. Mind you, they would enjoy much more comfortable conditions than they afford to their innocent captives. Such vessels may need modification but if common sense prevails, this need not be extensive.

It would certainly prevent those experienced in piracy returning home to flaunt their wealth. With this, realization that no longer pirate action groups get released and free to roam with impunity would sink in.

How many participate in acts of piracy, perhaps six hundred to one thousand or so? This small number humiliates the multinational navies who openly admit (given the constraints they operate under) cannot end the problem.

On one hand, it we hear that there are hundreds waiting for the chance to be part of a pirate action group. On the other, those villagers and ex fishermen who persuaded or forced to be the public face of wonton piracy consider it as bad. By not allowing perpetrators to return, the resolve of those who are against it will be reinforced. Also by removing the experienced elements of piracy, any inexperienced ones will be easier to capture and less able to effect seizure of a vessel.

This will not be a total solution to the problem but as part of it, it will go a long way towards protecting an innocent hard working and professional element of society that goes about its business mostly unseen and unheralded. What has the YEAR OF THE SEAFARER done for them?

There is a joint industry anti piracy petition still open, sign up now and ask others to do so at- http://www.itfseafarers.org/petition.cfm

On world maritime day, after only four months, some 920,000 signatories to it were presented to the IMO Secretary General on 23 September 2010. A video of the handover is available for your viewing at http://www.youtube.com/user/FASTfaceofshipping#p/u/0/myW1DcWv6EM 

Finally, let us take some time out to remember those on board their vessels diligently serving the world’s needs and economy, particularly the six hundred and fifty plus, who, in performing their duty now languishing captives because of heinous acts of piracy.

Jim Nicoll

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