Merchant navy captain Sunil James may have returned home after five-and-a-half-months in Togo but International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (London) statistics show how waters around the Indian sub-continent are the most dangerous.
James and two Indian crew members were arrested by the Togo police on July 31 on charges of helping pirates who had attacked and looted their Marshalls Island flag vessel, MT Ocean Centurion, around 45 nautical miles southeast of Togo’s coastal capital Lome in the Atlantic Ocean on July 16. James, however, said the court there was unable to prove their roles.
The bureau has reported 199 pirate attacks on vessels in the sub-continent’s waters in 2006-12. It warned mariners to be extra cautious when transiting from Southeast Asia and the sub-continent (Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malacca Straits, Singapore Straits and South China sea), Africa and Red Sea (Africa, Gulf of Aden/Red Sea, Somalia, Ivory Coast, Guinea, The Congo and Egypt), South and Central America and the Caribbean waters (Ecuador) and Rest of the World (Gulf of Oman).
The bureau’s 2012 report stated that 2,386 ships from over 97 countries in the merchant shipping business were attacked (2006-12). The seas and oceans around Africa top the chart with 1,228 cases, and Indian waters come third after Southeast Asian waters.
The report said pirates attacked 43 Indian-flag merchant vessels, placing it 11th. Panama topped with 409 ships, Liberia 268 and Singapore 215. There has been an apparent drop in Somali piracy activity, with 297 cases in 2012, after 439 in 2011, and the Gulf of Guinea has replaced the Gulf of Aden as one of the highest-risk zones.
The report warned mariners to be extra cautious while transiting particularly the highly dangerous waters off East and West Africa. “Navies are deterring piracy off Africa’s East coast, with pre-emptive strikes and robust action against mother ships of pirates,” bureau assistant director Cyrus Mody told TOI in an email on November 15.
Somali pirate attacks cover a vast area, which includes the Gulf of Aden, southern Red Sea, off Yemen, off Oman/ Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, off Somalia, off Kenya, off Tanzania, off Seychelles, off Madagascar, Indian Ocean, off West and South India and off Maldives west coast, the report said. “Even though there is a welcome drop in Somali piracy, the IMB piracy reporting centre continues to monitor the situation and advises vessels to remain vigilant and adhere to latest best management practices, especially as the threat and risk of an attack remains real,” the report said.
Piracy is a crime on the high seas against a ship and is for personal gain. Some of these crimes would need a degree of organization. “The apparent drop in Somali piracy activity has shifted the focus to the Gulf of Guinea, which has also been a very high risk area for many years. In the recent past, we have seen an increase in low-level opportunistic attacks at Indonesian ports,” said Mody.
The world’s only manned centre, which receives and disseminates reports of piracy and armed robbery 24 hours a day, urged all shipmasters and owners to report all actual, attempted and suspicious piracy and armed robbery incidents.
The directorate-general of shipping, Mumbai, in a July 7 training circular, decided to include the seafarers’ piracy awareness module in the ‘security training for seafarers with designated security duties’ course. “The training programme will focus on seafarers getting trained on recognition of security risks and threats, knowledge of techniques used to circumvent security measures, including those used by pirates and armed robbers and handling security-related information and communications,” the circular said.
Source: The Times of India