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Piracy at sea has been finally exposed to the open public in recent months, and that is a good thing. Unfortunately, there is still no firm plan (read international consensus) on how to fix the failures of the past. The truth of the matter is that the entire international maritime community (IMO included) had failed to address the piracy and its potentially escalating dangers, when there was still time to do so. I personally remember from the mid 1990's when sailing in the vicinity of Somalia was just being updated to "at least 50 miles OFF the coast" as considered safe (and it was). Over the next two decades the ONLY "fix" we all heard about was to simply increase that "safe" distance off the coast. Sure enough ships ran out of room in the Gulf of Aden and it appears there is finally no "safe" distance anymore. Duh! Somalian piracy has escalated to the point that even a relatively large presence of an international naval fleet can't seem to cope with the problem.

Below a few pics of Somali pirates. There is people who buy into their motives. People who likely have never come close to being attacked.

  • somali_pirate
  • pirate_mother_ship
  • somali_pirate_aboard

Who is to blame?

I'm never about blaming, as this is usually the easy way out of an argument. I will say this though, I have no doubts that a total lack of pro-activity on IMO's and shipping companies' part has been one of the major contributing factors. The reason I say this is rather simple to me. For decades the ONLY "solution" the industry has been sitting on (and the mariners in peril forced to place their hopes on) has been the so called IMB (International Maritime Bureau) Piracy Reporting Center in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Not to take away any credit from its staff, but what good could it do to avert the growth of piracy, if it was little else but a mere reporting center that, for all practical purposes, sends messages out to ships about a yet another reported attack? Keep in mind that this approach continued for decades without any major revamps and only augmented by IMO compiled piracy attack reports. Now we find ourselves unsure of what is awaiting us at any of the high impact piracy areas, unsure whether we're going to make it through.

Financially astronomical loads of cargo (never mind the mariner that goes with it) pass through the affected areas every day. Yet, we're still talking, issuing warnings, advising (on paper) how to best deter the sea criminals. We should have been blowing them out of the water with  a vengeance for all this time. Yet, we're still talking. Granted, we do have an international naval fleet in one area (at least we've managed that much) and it is a step in the right direction, yet ... we're still just talking. When CNN and other "experts" get their feet in, you know we're in for a long day.

How about AIS and how this device affected the whole problem? Did anyone think it through, prior to making it mandatory? I am all for anything that improves safety overall, and at sea especially. But more time should have been allocated to the research on such a device. It is more of a gadget, sort of an iPhone of the seas, than a real (yet mandatory) safety component. What good does it do, that many now seem to agree on how negatively it impacts the piracy issue. It's already been made mandatory and no lobbying will have them replaced at no cost to the ship owner. So often I long for the old way of doing things right.

How about this: crew members get an automatic $1,000,000 life insurance policy EVERY time they are to go through a high risk piracy area? For all the effort the industry has put into identifying them, there should be no doubts as to where or when such policy should take effect. I am not kidding in any way, I DO mean an automatic policy that kicks in and kicks out depending on vessel's geographical position. If a mariner is faced with such a route, and he has little choice, his family should be entitled to at least a small payback, if things do indeed go wrong. After all we've done next to nothing to protect them, let's have at least something to provide for their families.

For the time being have a look at these IMO circulars below in PDF format. Issued by the MSC (Maritime Safety Committee) and pretty much all talk again (just getting longer).

IMO Piracy off the coast of Somalia, circular 1332

IMO Piracy, recommendations to governments, circular 1333

IMO Piracy, guidelines to ship owners, operators and ship crews, circular 1334

Check out this article as well  - Somali Pirates.


Last Updated (Saturday, 26 March 2011 15:23)

Comments (1)
I agree
1 Friday, 25 September 2009 16:21
I like the life insurance idea. Companies might start paying a bit more attention to how piracy issue affects the people who actually have to go there.
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