Co-operation thwarts piracy

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 November, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 November, 1999, 12:00am

Co-operation between governments and the shipping industry crippled a piracy attack on the Alondra Rainbow and led to the recovery of its multi-million-dollar cargo, the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) says.

IMB director Pottengal Mukundan said co-operation between Indian authorities and various crews led to the recovery of aluminium ingots carried aboard a freighter which was reported missing shortly after leaving Indonesia en route for Japan in late October.

'The Alondra Rainbow case is a remarkable one because it is a perfect example of the unique role that the IBM Piracy Reporting Centre can play . . . by issuing timely alerts to ships at sea,' Mr Mukundan said.

He said the IMB was able to get masters of ships to look out for the vessel and to report back to the centre.

Once a number of sightings were reported, the IMB was able to approach Sri Lankan authorities and Indian coastguards to tell them where to look for the ship.

The IMB's piracy reporting centre, based in Kuala Lumpur, co-ordinated efforts to track the vessel.

The Indian navy boarded the Panamian-registered Alondra Rainbow after coastguards had shadowed her for two days across the Arabian sea, and after warning shots had been fired to force the pirates to stop the vessel.

Mr Mukundan said: 'This problem is not one which can be solved by law enforcement alone or by industry alone. It needs co-operation and . . . it needs the will of governments to act against this heinous crime.' Article 105 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea empowers any state to seize a ship or aircraft taken by pirates.

The Alondra Rainbow, valued at US$16 million with its cargo, was damaged when the Indian navy was forced to open fire and when the pirates apparently attempted to scuttle the ship.

However, even accounting for damages and the 40 per cent of the cargo which had been offloaded by the pirates before the vessel's recovery, Mr Mukundan said losses were still far less than had initially been feared.

The ship's crew, who were cast adrift on an open raft, are safe after being picked up by Thai fishermen.

The 15 alleged hijackers are being held by Indian police and are expected to be tried under the Indian Penal Code and international law.

The IMB reporting centre, whose services are free of charge to all vessels irrespective of ownership or flag, acts as a help point for vessels attacked by pirates.

A round-the-clock watch is maintained and, in collaboration with law enforcement agencies, the centre acts on reports of suspicious shipping movements, piracy and armed robbery at sea anywhere in the world.

The centre broadcasts quarterly and annual reports, daily status bulletins and is about to launch a weekly piracy status report on the Internet.