ASC: Time to treat pirates like terrorists
The Asian Shippers' Council on Thursday sent a proposal to the International Chamber of Commerce on how to better combat piracy in East Africa and the Gulf of Aden.
The proposal suggests governments involved in the international coalition battling piracy go on the offensive and start treating pirates as terrorists, including hitting pirate strongholds in coastal Somalia, and using intelligence to break down the financial trails that lead to the Middle East, Europe, and other parts of Africa.
'The international community has hoped to contain the problem through defensive measures, but as events in the recent years have shown, these measures have not been wholly effective,' the ASC said. 'While it may have prevented some of the ships from being hijacked, the problem has worsened, both in terms of frequency and in scope.
'While we agree the long-term solution to Somalia's problems lies in having a fully functioning government, more immediate measures are needed to tilt the risks/rewards ratio, making piracy a risky rather than a rewarding proposition for young Somalians.'
ASC's proposal primarily recommends that coalition forces begin taking names and asking questions later.
'Governments ' should empower navies to take appropriate measures to defeat the pirates,' the ASC said. 'Until today, many navies have been constrained to act. Even when the pirates are captured, most are released, as many countries are reluctant to detain them, much less prosecute them. According to reports, EU and NATO naval forces captured and then released an estimated 700 pirates in the first six months of 2010.
'The time has come for countries and the international community to review laws preventing them from bringing the pirates to justice.'
Among the specific requests, ASC called for navies to be given the right to detain suspected crews by 'if they have strong reasons to believe that a ship is being used as a mother ship.'
The council also said forces should target the four main Somali port towns — Caluula, Eyl, Hobyo and Harardhere — from which piracy activity has sprung.
The council also suggested government use intelligence to illuminate the financial trail outside of Somalia.
'Piracy in Somalia has become a multimillion-dollar enterprise involving financiers, negotiators and suppliers,' the ASC said. 'Many of the key players are operating in capitals in Kenya, the U.A.E. and Europe, away from the dusty port towns of Somalia. There are ongoing efforts to understand how the pirates operate, trace the piracy trail and track down those involved. But it is a painstaking effort involving human intelligence, signals intelligence as well as interrogations of pirates. By pulling resources together and sharing information, the international community stands a better chance of naming some of the key players and shaming those who may be operating under a cloak of respectability.'
Tom Timlen, Asia liaison officer of BIMCO, addresses the piracy issue in his 'On Second Thought '' column in the April issue of American Shipper, available next week. ' Eric Johnson