Shipping bodies hit out at shift in pirate-hostage equation

Isabel Lesto | Wed, 27 Apr 2011
Fundamental change makes the issue between the pirates and a government
 
 
A group of leading shipping bodies have hit out at pirates after Indian crew members of a merchant ship were retained ashore in Somalia after a ransom had been paid for their release. 
The International Chamber of Shipping, ITF, Indian National Shipowners’ Association, NUSI, MUI, IMEC, InterManager, Intertanko and BIMCO issued a statement calling this “a fundamental change to previous practice” which moved the issue from being “just between the shipowner and the pirates to being between the pirates and a government.”

“It is a major shift in the pirate-hostage equation which will need to be considered and addressed by the international community,” the group said.

The Asphalt Venture was hijacked by Somali pirates in September and, following a ransom payment, the ship was released on 15 April.

Despite negotiations for the full release of the 15-strong crew and the vessel, and payment of the ransom, the vessel was released but six officers and one rating were taken off the tanker and made to accompany the pirates ashore.

“In subsequent press reports it is suggested that pirates in Harardhere have taken the decision not to honour the agreement made but to prolong the hostage ordeal of the seven seafarers in retaliation for the arrest of Somali pirates by the Indian Navy recently,” the group said.

Earlier this year, IFW reported that piracy attained an all-time high in the first quarter of the 2011, with 142 attacks reported worldwide.

The International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) global piracy report says the sharp rise was driven by a surge in incidents off the coast of Somalia, where 97 attacks were recorded in the first three months, compared with 35 in the same period last year.

Worldwide, during the first three months of 2011, pirates murdered seven crew members and injured 34. Eighteen vessels were hijacked and 344 crew members taken hostage, with a further 45 vessels boarded and 45 more were fired upon.

Capt Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB said: “Figures for piracy and armed robbery at sea in the past three months are higher than we’ve ever recorded in the first quarter of any year.”

What measures should governments adopt to tackle the problem of piracy? Email the editor at: kizzi.nkwocha@informa.com

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