Piracy Still a Major Problem in Indonesia and the Horn of Africa

The pirates set out in small, unlit craft under the cover of darkness waiting for vulnerable commercial ships to pass. A few weeks ago, a Filipino crewman on a supply boat was shot and killed, as pirates unsuccessfully attempted to board the boat off the Malacca Strait.

On December 25, 2003, a tug and barge was hijacked by 15 armed men 15 miles off Muara Sabak. The crew of 14 was ordered overboard and managed to swim safely to shore. No deaths or injuries reported here. The barge was found, but the tugboat is still missing.

These incidents highlight the measures being implemented in the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. The mandatory International Maritime Organization?s ISPS Code should provide invaluable training procedures for Ship Security Officers and Company Security Officers. The fact is that piracy is still very much a serious problem in Indonesia and the Horn of Africa, where incidents are commonplace.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Shipping Federation (ISF) recently updated its edition of ?Pirates and Armed Robbers: Guidelines for Masters and Ship Security Officers.?

The newly released fourth edition has been expanded, updating practical advice on where attacks occur- includes new regional maps and data- and offers guidance on how to prevent attacks and what to do in the event of an incident. In doing so, it takes into account the Ship Security Plan now required by the ISPS Code.

This edition is even more somber, and has a sinister looking cover, and is full of advice. The edition is focused on how to avoid injury and death to merchant seafarers, and its guidance is given in a no-nonsense, no-heroics style.

Piracy is not an issue that masters, crews, or shipping companies can solve. Although prudent onboard precautions are important, they cannot take the place of concentrated enforcement by states in the waters they are supposed to control.

ICS Secretary, Simon Bennett, said, ?In view of the enormous energy that is currently being expended on security issues, it?s ironic that the problem of piracy and armed robbery at sea is still being given inadequate attention by the international community.?

?I, for one,? he continues, ?pray that 2004 will be the year that finally sees the end of the scourge of piracy. It can be defeated. It should be defeated. And, there can be no valid excuses for not eradicating this menace now. But, I won?t hold my breath.?