Take firm action on Somalia piracy: maritime body to UN

November 21st, 2008 - 12:00 pm ICT by IANS  

United Nations, Nov 21 (IANS) The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has urged the UN Security Council to act fast with firm determination to “rid the world of this modern scourge” of increasing armed robbery and piracy off the coast of Somalia.Addressing a meeting of the Security Council on Somalia Thursday, IMO Secretary General Efthmios Mitropoulos said a coordinated and cohesive response at the international level was necessary for the safety and well-being of seafarers and for seamless delivery of humanitarian aid to Somalia.

This is essential for protection of the marine environment against casualties that may have a catastrophic impact and for the shipping industry to continue to serve the seaborne trade and the world economy efficiently and effectively, he argued.

Expressing grave concern over the escalating incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the waters off Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, Mitropoulos said the IMO is also worried about the ferocity of the attacks and the risk they pose to seafarers and the marine environment.

Since the IMO started compiling data, some 440 acts of piracy and armed robbery has taken place off the coast of Somalia, of which 120 have been reported this year. As of now more than a dozen ships and 280 seafarers are being held hostage in Somalia by these pirates. In all, as many as 35 ships have been seized this year and more than 600 seafarers have been kidnapped for ransom, he said.

Many of them are Indian for which several million dollars have reportedly been paid as ransom - a development that forced the Indian government to send its warships to the region.

Mitropoulos said the attackers invariably follow two patterns. One they attack ships on the high seas, not usually at considerable distance from the shore, allegedly making use of “mother” ships. Last Saturday they hijacked the giant oil tanker Sirius Star in the Indian Ocean, some 450 nautical miles from the coast of Kenya.

Secondly, the hijacks/attacks take place in Somalia’s territorial sea, sometimes under the watchful surveillance of warships outside those waters.

The IMO chief appreciated the efforts of countries and organisations, NATO and EU in particular, to address the issue by dispatching naval forces and military aircraft to patrol the vast area off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden and by escorting vessels used by the World Food Programme to provide humanitarian relief to the Somalia people.

Referring to the strategic importance of the Gulf of Aden, he said it serves more than 12 percent of the total volume of oil transported by sea, in addition to the commodities carried by bulk carriers.

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