Friday, September 28, 2012

Freight Vessels Should Not Drop Guard against Pirate Attacks

Calmer Weather Sees First Assault for Some While
Shipping News Feature

TANZANIA – SOMALIA – INDIAN OCEAN - The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has completed the programme it entered into over a year ago along with its partners, the Tanzanian and US governments, to install an integrated radar and automatic identification system (AIS) coastal surveillance system in Tanzania to assist in the ongoing offensive against the pirate gangs operating throughout the coastal waters of the Indian Ocean and the Mozambique Channel which have regularly attacked freight, fishing and passenger craft over the past few years.

The radar images and unique ship identification information produced provides a coastal picture to both the Tanzanian Peoples Defence Forces as well as the civilian authorities at the Dar es Salaam Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre and the integral Information Sharing Centre. The official launch of the system was marked by a ceremony attended by senior US and Japanese diplomats, Tanzanian Government officials and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the IMO for Maritime Security and Anti-Piracy Programmes, Mr Hartmut Hesse, in Dar es Salaam on the 17th September.

Conceived as a bi-lateral military project between the United States and the United Republic of Tanzania, IMO joined the project to integrate the system for civil and maritime law-enforcement use in order to bring all maritime agencies together and the implementation of the Tanzanian system merely completes the first phase of a wider programme to provide similar systems in States bordering the Mozambique Channel and its approaches, and the work is being undertaken as part of the IMO’s counter-piracy programme under the Djibouti Code of Conduct funded by contributions to the Djibouti Code Trust Fund from its donors: France, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia and The Marshall Islands.

The Dar es Salaam Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre was originally conceived as part of the plan to install five regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres in African countries first proposed at the 2000 IMO Conference on Search and Rescue (SAR) and the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), held in the Italian city of Florence, with the intention to implement a regional approach to the provision of search and rescue services in western, southern and eastern parts of Africa. The uprising of the pirate culture has of course changed the nature of rescues somewhat but the facilities are now sensibly being put to dual use.

Pirate activity in the waters off Somalia and beyond has been vastly reduced of late with the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reporting a 54% year on year drop in hijack numbers in the first six months, but the ending of the South West monsoon season brought the first assault for some time on Monday (24th September) when an Omani dhow was attacked. Smaller vessels are not usually included in the IMB reporting figures and together with fishing vessels such craft now seem to be the favoured targets since armed security guards have been introduced by many liner companies.

Owners and crews are warned again by the authorities to be especially vigilant now the weather is becoming more settled and to employ Best Management Practices and to register with the appropriate authorities such as the Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) whilst also reporting any incidents or suspicious activity to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC).

Photo: Who’d be a pirate on a day like this? The assembled force of the Korean frigate Wang Geon (Combined Task Force 151), the FS Marne (Atalanta) and the Dutch frigate Evertsen (Ocean Shield - NATO) the three major task forces show a united, and fearsome, front. (Courtesy of European Union Naval Force Somalia – Operation Atalanta).