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January 20, 2010

Chamber of Shipping calls for action on piracy

The Chamber of Shipping of America (CSA) is expressing its frustration at the seeming impotence of the international community to address the continuing piracy crisis in the Indian Ocean.

Joseph J. Cox, President of CSA says, "Over fifty ships were pirated in 2009 around the Horn of Africa and over one thousand seafarers taken hostage. Currently, there are over twenty ships being held with over two hundred seafarers and their families affected."

"The unacceptable situation prevailing now, with seafarers lives being threatened on a daily basis -- and Somali pirates still operating with impunity -- cannot be allowed to continue by the nations of the world," he continued. "There is a growing concern among the national shipowner associations that the international community is not actively seeking to eliminate piracy and is instead treating the current level of attacks against shipping as somehow 'tolerable'."

"It is particularly upsetting when the main focus of some senior politicians both here and abroad is limited to commenting on their objections to the payment of ransoms or even worse suggesting that payments are or should be illegal. The protection of shipping from piracy -- regardless of flag, or the nationality of the crew -- is a clear and legitimate responsibility for governments under the traditional law of the sea which is codified in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Traditionally, a primary role of navies has always been to protect merchant shipping and to keep sea lanes open to trade. It is extraordinary that governments today seem less able to protect shipping than they were almost 200 years ago."

Cox concluded by noting that CSA is deeply engaged with the U.S. government in reacting to piracy as it affects U.S. flag ships and ships of all nations. "We hope the U.S. government continues its leadership role among nations and we look forward to positive reactions among our U.S. agencies."

One vessel that escaped a recent pirate hijacking attempt is the Jamaica-flagged Motor Vessel (M/V) Miltiades. According to Fifth Fleet, it came under attack and successfully deterred suspected pirates Jan. 17, while transiting approximately 130 nautical miles southwest of Al Mukalla, Yemen.

The pirate skiff fired on the merchant ship with AK-47 rifles. The Miltiades embarked security team fired red flares and the ship took recommended evasive maneuvers to cause the skiff to break off the attack. No injuries or damages were reported aboard Miltiades.

Early detection of suspected attacks is the first line of defense against piracy, notes Fifth Fleet, but other practices include using flares, outrunning attackers or using heavy wheel movements, use of non-lethal devices, such as netting, water hoses, electric fencing, wire and long-range acoustic devices. These practices have proven effective at deterring piracy.

"We continue to highlight the importance of preparation by the merchant mariners and the maritime industry," said Commodore Tim Lowe, deputy commander of the Combined Maritime Forces. "The efforts of the coalition naval forces deployed to the region are deterring and disrupting pirate attacks. However, when vessels have practiced self protection measures, the risk of being pirated has been greatly reduced."


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