Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lawmaker: Pinoy seamen deserve equal protection of law

As Reported by Pinoyabroad
The Democratic Independent Workers' Association (DIWA) party-list representative is asking the House committee on overseas workers affairs to look into the recent sea piracy incidents involving Filipino seafarers.
In House Resolution 1474, filed last week by DIWA party-list Rep. Emmeline Aglipay, the "inquiry in aid of legislation" would pave the way to ensure that all Filipino seamen are "accorded the equal protection of the law."
"The inadequacy of our piracy laws necessitates additional legislative measures to make them more all-encompassing, so as not to prejudice other Filipino seafarers who are likewise prone to pirate attacks," she said.
In particular, Aglipay noted that the government should provide "double compensation and benefits" to any victims of sea piracy. Under the present rules, only victims of hijacking in "high risk" zones are given double compensation, while those who become victims in other areas are left with no recourse.
"The Philippine government must take an aggressive role in addressing the plight of our Filipino seafarers who will continue… becoming victims of these illegal activities," Aglipay said, noting that the seamen have greatly boosted the Philippine economy through their remittances.
There are over 300,000 Filipino seafarers, comprising around 30 percent of an estimated 1.2 million seafarers worldwide, according to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. They have remitted a total of $3.8 billion in 2010, it added.
Death of some seafarers
The death of Christopher Ceprado — one of 17 Filipino crew members of chemical tanker M/T Sea King that was attacked by heavily armed pirates last May — prodded Aglipay to file the House resolution. [See related: Kin of Pinoy seafarer killed off Nigeria seek PHL govt's help]
In this incident, the pirates looted and ransacked the vessel's equipment and took personal effects of crew members while the ship was in the port of Benin's largest city, Cotonou, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
Aglipay noted that prior to the killing of Ceprado, M/V Beluga Nomination was hijacked by Somali pirates 390 nautical miles north of Port Victoria in the Seychelles on Jan. 22, 2011.
Farolito Vallega, a Filipino crewman of the M/V Beluga, was shot and killed by the Somali pirates as two anti-piracy naval patrol vessels attempted a rescue mission on Jan. 26, 2011. Also, another Filipino crewman is still missing after jumping overboard during the rescue operation.
Aglipay quoted the International Chamber of Commerce as saying there have been 248 attacks and 28 vessels hijacked worldwide so far this year. 
"While the waters off Somalia continues to remain the most piracy-prone area, the risk to crews and shipping off Nigeria and its neighboring states remains high as well especially since incidents are not reported," the lawmaker said.

Aglipay, citing numbers from the International Maritime Bureau, said there are currently over 700 hostages held in over 30 vessels. Based on DFA records, at least 130 Filipino seafarers on board 11 vessels had been held captive by Somali pirates. — With Jesse Edep/VS, GMA News

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Norway's Anti-Piracy Stance

As Reported HERE

Norway’s Anti-Piracy Stance Grabs Industry Attention


The dog days of summer are upon us, which may explain why Norway’s release of new anti-piracy regulations crept by without much attention. But the force and practicality of Norway’s effort to lay out practical terms for using armed guards on Norway-flagged vessels is now dawning on shipowners and maritime lawyers.
“The Norwegians have helped ships flagged in Norway take the bull by the horns,” said Chris Greiveson, a Singapore-based partner at Norwegian law firm Wikborg Rein.
Norway had tried to make the guidelines for using weaponry on ships during an attack as simple and straightforward as it could, he added. “[The rules] are essentially exemptions to local firearms law,” Mr Greiveson said.
The rules go so far as to specify the type of weapons that owners are allowed to deploy via security guards on their vessels, including rifles with as high a calibre as AK-47s, and large semi-automatic weapons.
Norway issued the rules on July 1, at a time when more shipowners are turning to armed guards for protection, particularly in crossing the Indian Ocean.
Lloyd’s List has reported that protection and indemnity clubs are being swamped by requests from owners in all flags to review contracts with security companies offering piracy protection.
Guidelines for selection of security companies and for rules of engagement have been issued by the International Maritime Organization and by P&I clubs.
However, owners that opt to deploy armed guards are still entering a grey area in the law that has not been tested with a great degree of legal precedent. For example, they are held to the laws of their flag state on such matters as which weapons are allowed and the use of weapons.
Only Norway, so far, has been specific about the actual weapons the owners may use. The rules require owners to get a general framework permission from a Norwegian police authority and the country’s maritime directorate, and then to document the actual use of a properly trained and vetted armed personnel with the authorities.
“A granted permit will not be linked to each individual firearm,” the regulations state said. “However, companies must apply for an exemption in order to be permitted to hold prohibited firearms.” Moreover, exemptions are granted for fully automatic firearms with bullets that do not exceed 7.62 mm in calibre or that use rounds with a size of 9 x 19 mm.
The exemptions also allow for single-shot, repeating semi-automatic firearms with bullets with diameters that do not exceed 12.7mm — in other words, “quite a big beast of a weapon”, according to Mr Greiveson.
The regulations include guidelines for storage of weapons and many other practical issues. The detailed level of advice came in the wake of criticism of the Norwegian government by Norwegian shipowners, who were calling for a more useful code to work with. “Norway has done a great service to its shipowners,” said Mr Greiveson.
BW Group chairman Helmut Sohmen said that the regulations were helpful, and would help stop “incidental attacks”.
However, he raised the caveat that deploying armed guards was no solution to the problem. The escalation of violence could put seafarers into the middle of a melee, or pirates could simply be clever enough to stay away from Norwegian ships and attack those less likely to be so well armed.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Indian Navy Foils Pirate Attack

As Reported HERE

INS Godavari foils piracy attempt


An Indian Navy warship foiled a pirate attack on a Greek merchant vessel in the Gulf of Aden when it launched a helicopter and marine commandoes forcing eight Somali pirates to abandon the plan.
Indian Naval Ship Godavari, on anti-piracy patrol escort operation since May 25 in the region responded to a distress call from MV Elinakos in the early hours of July 16 while escorting four other ships in the Gulf of Aden.
“The INS Godavari was quick to launch a helicopter to locate the skiff being used by the pirates and subsequently launched marine commandos to board the pirate boat. On being approached by the naval boat, they dumped their arms, ammunition and other piracy triggers’’, Indian Navy spokesman said.
A German naval ship, the Niedersachsen, also coordinated with INS Godavari in the operation, which continued with the escort mission, on completion of the operation.
Since it deployment in May this year, INS Godavari has safely escorted 219 ships of various countries and last week, the warship escorted a Pakistani ship, the MV Islamabad, with an all-Pakistani crew of 38.
The Indian Navy has been deploying ships since 2008 in the Gulf of Aden for escorting merchant vessels and Indian Naval ships have escorted 1,665 ships successfully.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Regulating Private Maritime Security?

As Reported by Inner City Press

On Somalia Piracy, US Questions Regulating Mercenaries, Egypt Says Crime is Crime 


UNITED NATIONS, July 14 -- Amid controversy about the use of mercenaries to face off against pirates off the coast of Somalia, the US State Department's Donna Hopkins on July 14 told Inner City Press “there's a robust international effort [about] the use of armed security, private or not, and how it should be regulated, if at all.” Video here, from Minute 13:30.
Earlier in the month, the chairman of the UN's Working Group on mercenaries told Inner City Press that a draft convention to regulate private military contractors is being opposed by large states.
Apparently, even with Blackwater having renamed itself Xe Services and moved to the Middle East, the US is still opposed to regulating mercenaries, including on the high seas.
Hopkins is formally the Coordinator of the Counter Piracy and Maritime Security Bureau of Political Military Affairs at the US State Department, and chairs “Working Group Three” of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. Denmark's Legal Adviser Thomas Winkler declined to say if the use of armed security is good or bad, but added that no ship with armed guards has been hijacked.
Another Contact Group member, Egypt's Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister and Counter Terrorism Coordinator Ashraf Mohsen, adopted an even harder line. Inner City Press asked if the Contact Group has done anything about illegal fishing or the dumping of toxic waste.
Some will try to justify criminal behavior,” Mohsen said, citing poverty as an excuse for stealing, injustice as a rationale for killing. “Crime is crime... Piracy is a form of criminal behavior. Any justification is unacceptable.”
As if to counteract this position, Mary Seet-Cheng of Singapore said that piracy cannot be solved at sea. The UK's Chris Holtby chimed in about efforts on the rule of law in Somalia, the development of its Exclusive Economic Zone. He did not mention outside involvement in what purported to be Somalia's own Law of the Sea filing. And so it goes at the UN.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pirates Seize Livestock Vessel

As Reported by Reuters
BOSASSO, Somalia (Reuters) - Somali pirates have hijacked a vessel carrying livestock off the shores of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, a local official said.
The vessel was sailing from Bosasso in Somalia and to the United Arab Emirates, Hassan Farah Jamac, Puntland's commerce and industry minister told Reuters late on Thursday.
"It was carrying a lot of goats from Bosasso," Jamac said. "We are very sorry about that. Our forces are now preparing to rescue the boat with the help of the foreign navies."
He gave no details of the number of crew nor their nationalities.
Somali pirate gangs, who can stay out at sea for long periods using captured merchant vessels as mother ships, make tens of millions of dollars in ransoms from seizing ships off the lawless country's waters.
Their use of mother ships has allowed them to venture out as far as the waters off India's coast and Mozambique and, unlike in the past, they can keep sailing even in rough waves during the ongoing monsoon season.
Crude oil tankers sailing in the east and northeast of the Gulf of Aden have been particularly targeted.
An International Maritime Bureau report released on Thursday said despite the increase of attacks off Somalia and other areas, successful hijackings were down, in large part due to massive patrolling by naval fleets.
But it said the pirates, who use machineguns, grenade launchers and other weapons, had become more violent.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


As Reported HERE

AFRICA 11 July 2011. British Royal Navy warship entangled in domestic affairs skirmish.

A British warship allegedly having the commander of the Somaliland navy and some of his soldiers on board attracted on Saturday serious military fire when it came close to the shore off
Laasqoray, the coastal town of Warsangeliland at the Somali shores of the Gulf of Aden. From the foreign warship reportedly one amphibious vessel and two commando boats were launched with the intent to land on the beach.

Local officials, observers and media reported the incident as an unprecedented provocation and attack on the sovereignty of Somalia and specifically of the Warsangeli territory. 

Reports indicated earlier last week that a British warship had come to Somaliland’s port city of Berbera where President Ahmed Silanyo reportedly met British officials on board the vessel.

The ship is believed to be a patrol ship that is part of the western-led anti-piracy initiatives along the coasts of Somalia.

While neither EU NAVFOR nor the British navy reported the incident, security forces of Somalia’s breakaway region of Puntland confirmed that they had fired towards a British warship near the coast.

The political background is the long-standing fight between the former British colony of Somaliland in the Northwest of Somalia, which today prefers to be an independent, though internationally not recognized breakaway republic and Puntland, the federal regional state of Somalia, located to the north-east.

Between these two blocks, the land of the Warsangeli and further south the Dulbahante homeland form a buffer zone, which regularly sees skirmishes over the control for these areas, which also contain oil- and other mineral concessions, being fought over between the two blocks.

Somaliland and Puntland are engaged in this long-standing border dispute particularly along the borders of the Sool, Sanaag and Ceyn regions located in the central north of Somalia since 1992.

The latest incident now involved a British naval vessel on a mission with an obviously pro-Somaliland agenda which was countered by forces loyal to the Puntland government as well as by those of the local Warsangeli governance.

The provincial commissioner of Sanaag region, Mohamud Dabayl said the war ship sailed towards Laasqoray, a strategic port town in the North of Somalia which is part of a territory disputed by the Puntland and Somaliland authorities.

"The ship appeared to have been misdirected and its captain may have been told that Laasqoray would be part of Somaliland. It was sailing towards Laasqoray” Dabayl told the local media in Bosaso.

He said Puntland authorities fired warning shots after it emerged that the warship entered their territory without prior notification, an issue regional officials said is a violation of territorial sovereignty and international law.

“Our security forces fired warning shots towards the ship because it was sailing through the coast of Puntland. The warning was to tell the crew that they were not in the territorial waters of Somaliland” he added.

According to the local Hiraan media, the regional commissioner said Puntland security personnel had arrested one person from the ship who was waving the flag of the self declared republic of Somaliland at the time when the warning shots were fired.

Local observers reported that though heavier weapons including RPGs and also small arms fire were directed against the British naval contingent and three of the Somaliland soldiers, who had landed from the British ship on the beach, were arrested, nobody got hurt.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Yemen Coast Guard Frees Saudi Tanker

As Reported HERE
Yemeni coastguards free Saudi oil tanker from pirates
ADEN, July 06 (Saba) - Yemeni coastguard forces managed on Wednesday to free a Saudi oil tanker after armed clashes with Somali pirates.

Director General of the Aden Coastguard Sector Abdul-Rahman Musa said that Somali pirates have attempted to seize the Saudi oil supertanker "Brlenti Velots" off the Gulf of Aden.

Musa said that the Somali pirates have been killed in the rescue operation of the tanker that was heading for Britain.

The tanker captain commended the efforts of the Yemeni security forces that have freed the tanker with no human casualties.