Stamp out piracy, shipowners demand

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 May, 2011, 12:00am


Asian shipowners reiterated their 'impatience, anger and frustration' at the ever increasing number of pirate attacks, according to the Asian Shipowners' Forum.

At the forum's annual meeting in Bali yesterday, ASF chairman Johnson Sutjipto said piracy and ship hijackings had become 'rampant' since the collapse of Somalia's government more than 20 years ago. 'It is now time to take effective action and eradicate piracy,' he said.

The ASF represents 14 shipowner groups in Asia, including those in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the mainland, which together control about half of the world's merchant fleet.

Quoting figures from a privately funded foundation, Oceans Beyond Piracy, Yasumi Kudo, chairman of the ASF shipping economics review committee, said: 'Pirates have apparently concluded that the rewards of hijackings far outweigh the risk of capture and punishment. The cost of organised piracy to global trade, estimated to be US$7 to12 billion per annum, is simply unsustainable.'

By comparison a research report published this month by Geopolicity, a management consultancy, said the total cost of piracy to the global community was between US$4.3-US$8.3 billion last year and was likely to increase to US$13-15 billion by 2015. The number of attacks globally could also climb from 445 last year to more than 600 by 2015.

The ASF also 'expressed grave concern that the waters off the coast of Somalia have grown increasingly treacherous as hijackings, kidnappings and extortion have proliferated over the past several years'.

'Pirates were once confined to the waters of the Gulf of Aden and off the Horn of Africa, but with each success, they have grown ever more daring and extended their area of operation. It is high time for all governments, the United Nations and the International Maritime Organisation to come together and put an end to these criminal activities,' said Teo Siong Seng, chairman of the ASF's safe navigation and environment committee.

He was underscoring comments made at a committee meeting in March, expressing outrage at the lack of government action while also giving tacit approval for shipowners to deploy armed guards on their ships.

Coincidentally, the IMO's maritime safety committee has just approved interim guidelines on the use of armed guards on board ships transiting high-risk piracy areas.

While shipowners can deploy armed guards in pirate-infested waters off Somalia, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, shipowners must abide by any laws and regulations imposed by the jurisdiction where the ship is registered.

The ASF meeting, which ends today, heard there were 522 seamen and 26 ships being held hostage off Somalia up until last Monday.

Li Shanmin, ASF seafarers' committee chairman added: 'In recent months, there has been an escalation in violence including the murder and torture of seafarers. The psychological impact on seafarers and their families, due to seafarers travelling through the high risk area, is not something to be taken lightly.'