Thursday, February 17, 2011

Merchant Vessels Disregarding Piracy Threat

As Reported HERE
Merchant Vessels Are Disregarding Piracy Threat

International Maritime Organisation warns of not taking piracy threat seriously
09:35 GMT, February 17, 2011 The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) warns that an “unacceptably high proportion of ships transiting the Gulf of Aden and western Indian Ocean” are not taking the threat of piracy seriously by heeding warnings or taking measures to protect their ships.

In a circular letter to IMO members, the United Nations, intergovernmental, non-governmental and other organizations, the IMO said that naval forces off the coast of Somalia have observed many ships in area that are not registered with the Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa; are not reporting to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) Dubai; show no piracy deterrents and are not acting on warnings of pirate activity. At least 25% of commercial ships passing through the Gulf of Aden ignore safety precautions, AllBusiness reported in January.

The IMO noted that as of February 14, 685 crew on board 30 ships are being held for ransom along the Somali coast, which reflects a worsening situation as pirates are expanding their reach into the Indian Ocean, especially through the increasing use of mother ships. The organisation also says that pirate attacks are becoming more violent and that pirates are using captured crew as human shields.

Failure to implement fully the IMO guidance, including the industry-developed best management practices, significantly increases the risk of successful pirate attacks, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) said. Some of the best management guidelines include maintaining a high cruising speed (travelling at 18 knots or more makes it almost impossible for pirates to board), erecting physical barriers and using hoses and foam to deter pirates.

“Regrettably, there is disturbing evidence to show that, in too many cases, this advice has either not reached shipping companies or their ships or has not been acted upon,” the circular letter says. The IMO goes on to urge “all those concerned, particularly Administrations, industry representative bodies, seafarer associations, shipowners and companies to take action to ensure that ships’ masters receive updated information unfailingly and that all the recommended preventive, evasive and defensive measures are fully and effectively implemented”.

The announcement follows the launch on February 3 of the IMO’s anti-piracy action plan, in support of the 2011 World Maritime Day theme: “Piracy: orchestrating the response”. The action plan was launched by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said the escalation of piracy off the Somali coast is “completely unacceptable” and requires urgent action. He welcomed the decision of the IMO to pay special attention to this serious threat during the year ahead.

Also present at the launch was Colonel Richard Spencer, who criticised the shipping industry for in many cases failing to take adequate self-protection measures or assist the co-ordinating naval bodies, even when they had advised authorities they were in the high risk zone. “NATO has taken to phoning up ships within 50 miles of a mothership sighting to warn them of the risk because ships are not reading the warnings they put out. They are sailing blind,” he said. “There is a reason why some flags consistently have the highest number of ships taken. I’m speechless as to why some flag states are not doing more.” He said naval forces had “observed non-compliance” on the ships of the top four flag states, Liberia, Panama, Marshall Islands and Bahamas.

As a result of the continuing piracy scourge, the IMO is encourages governments to provide extra naval and aerial surveillance in piracy affected areas and provide security forces with information on ship movements.

The IMO added that an information distribution facility (IDF) has been created to help security forces operating in the Gulf of Aden and the Western Indian Ocean to build a better picture of where ships are, in order to provide warnings of pirate activity and to facilitate more effective repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships through the more effective deployment of the limited available naval and military resources.

Through the anti-piracy action plan, the IMO aims to strengthen its anti-piracy abilities and expand its reach to create a broader, global effort. The plan has six main goals for 2011 and beyond. These are:

• to increase political pressure to secure the release of hostages;
• to review and improve IMO guidelines and promote compliance with best management practices and the recommended preventive, evasive and defensive measures ships should follow;
• to improve support from and co-ordination with navies;
• to promote anti-piracy co-operation between states and the industry;
• to deter, interdict and bring to justice pirates;
• and to provide care, during the post-traumatic period, for those attacked or hijacked by pirates.

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