INTERTANKO, BIMCO propose Somali blockade
Two ship owning associations on Monday called for greater international military action to stop a major escalation of piracy in the Gulf of Aden even as governments continue to press vessel operators to take more responsibility for their own protection.
Several countries and NATO have sent naval forces to the maritime corridor off the coast of Somalia, but the head of the U.S. naval task force and others have said they do not have the resources to provide 24-hour protection in such a huge area of ocean.
In response, Peter Swift, managing director of the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO), said navies should consider placing a blockade around Somalia and intercept vessels leaving coastal waters rather than trying to protect the entire Gulf of Aden, according to the Associated Press.
Swift said the coordination among navies could make easier the task of patrolling the 2,400-mile coastline. He also called for more aerial support to find and deter pirates.
BIMCO, the world’s largest shipping association, also issued a statement calling for better naval coordination, noting navies had already helped reduce the number of successful hijackings from 53 percent of all attacks in August to 31 percent in October. Current assistance includes some naval escorts and responding to distress calls.
“With the growing commitment of warships and helicopters by nation states these must be coordinated by one organization for their most effective use in order to continue this trend,” it said.
Both Swift and a BIMCO representative said a blockade is possible if the multi-coalition naval force coordinate their actions and more warships are sent to the area with a stronger mandate from the United Nations, the AP reported.
There have been 95 ships attacked by pirates this year in the Gulf of Aden and 39 have successfully been hijacked.
BIMCO also advised ship owners on Friday that vessels should be routed via the Cape of Good Hope to avoid attack. Swift said diversion of tankers around Africa would delay delivery and increase transport costs by 30 percent.
Both organizations are participating in a shipping conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Pirates have expanded their range as vessels follow Africa routes further out to sea. Last week a fully laden Saudi supertanker, the Sirius Star, was captured some 400 miles off the coast of Kenya and directed to Somali waters. The pirates are seeking a $25 million ransom.
BIMCO advised members to route vessels east of Madagascar and take advantage of varying routes in order not to follow predictable patterns pirates can exploit. It also said that operators who continue to travel the Gulf of Aden might find it difficult to rely on war clauses in their insurance policies, even if they include reference to piracy.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom's Shadow Shipping Minister Julian Brazier said Friday that piracy actions should be treated as acts of war, rather than a criminal offense, as the European Union proposed earlier this year.
'The effect of doing that would be to require our armed forces to risk their lives trying to capture pirates — who might then, in some circumstances, be able to claim asylum — rather than simply blowing them out of the water, as the Indian navy has just done.'
One of several ships being held in various locations by Somali pirates was released last week, information that came to light only on Saturday to allow the vessel time to leave the area in which it was being held.
The ship, the Greek-owned chemical tanker Genius, was captured in September with a crew of 19 onboard.