Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hope Promised to Freight Interests as Piracy of Shipping Continues Unabated

When Will Flag Nations Commit To Action?
Shipping News Feature

SOMALIA – WORLDWIDE – Following open letters between the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and SHAPE’s Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, US Navy Admiral James Stavridis, the ITF have today welcomed the Admiral’s comments regarding future policies for dealing with the ever worsening piracy situation both in the Indian Ocean and across the world. As we pointed out in a previous article in which we interviewed NATO’s Rear Admiral Ort there has been a lack of will when it comes to prosecuting those who hijack freight and other vessels with impunity and are the scourge of modern shipping.

The letter from the ITF’s David Heindel predated our own interview by over a month and covered essentially the same points indicating the dissatisfaction of ship owners, crews and other stakeholders in the seeming inability or lack of will to prosecute offenders. After pointing out that the constant threat of attack by armed men was sapping the morale of crews, Mr Heindel indicated that the use of private security and Best Management Practices (BMP)were helpful but they were likely to lead to an escalation of violence with only state intervention liable to prove decisive.

Before offering to assist the authorities in any way possible the ITF Chairman commented:

“One of our biggest concerns is the failure of the big flag States to make any meaningful contribution. It is clear that they are not effectively ensuring that ships which fly their flag implement the BMP. Neither are they taking any measures to exercise their jurisdiction on the pirates that attack vessels which fly their flag. This means that where there is sufficient evidence the flag State should be facilitating the transfer of custody of apprehended pirates and that the flag State should undertake the effective prosecution of the pirates and, after due process, their confinement/imprisonment.

“We need a more robust response in all areas. This would include disrupting the pirate camps on land and restricting their access to fuel and to their ability to store fuel. We would like to see their ‘safe anchorages’ being made less safe.”

On the 20th October the Admiral responded and after thanking the ITF for their commitment to the cause of eliminating piracy he continued:

“As you are well aware, the military action at sea, conducted by several coalitions, only addresses the symptoms of a wider problem which remain on land in Somalia, which has suffered from an absence of government for more than two decades. I would like to assure you that we are doing as much as we can with the assets the NATO members have allocated to the NATO counter-piracy task force.

“Regarding the legal framework about detention and prosecution of suspected pirates, NATO Headquarters is attempting to negotiate a number of arrangements to facilitate the transfer to and from some regional states. Your concern about this issue will be relayed to NATO Headquarters which is dealing with the political aspect of the problem.

“I appreciate your support for more robust actions against piracy and I can guarantee you that the NATO task force uses all its means to limit the freedom of movement of the Pirate Action Groups in the area. With other military coalitions, NATO Warships put pressure on the identified strongholds of pirates along the coast of Somalia and intend to continue while the monsoon season is abating.”

Despite the Admiral’s forwarding the ITF’s concerns to the ‘political body’ of NATO at the organisations HQ in Brussels the simple fact remains however that organising a state approved armed response is proving difficult to say the least, even more difficult in fact than organising aid for an area of the world suffering extreme hardships where people are literally struggling for survival.

It is now in the hands of those who register shipping in the various countries of the world to ensure that some of the profits they derive from flag income is used to ensure that the vessels they register all take adequate precautions against the threat of piracy whilst freely offering to prosecute and imprison those who attack ships listed in their respective countries. Such actions are unlikely however unless political pressure is brought to bear on the flag states themselves with minimum standards assured or the ultimate penalty of withdrawal of registration status must follow.

Failure to take such obvious action will mean, as pointed out by the ITF, that the problem of piracy will continue to spread far and wide, as is evidenced by the recent attacks on vessels transiting outside the normal danger zone.