The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners Weighs in on Piracy

INTERTANKO: Somalia piracy options include security cordon.

As the current scourge of piracy off Somalia’s coasts escalates dramatically since the Sirius Star was hijacked in the Indian Ocean, we have already:

• called on governments to provide naval and other military support (such as aerial surveillance) to protect seafarers and trade in the international sea lanes.

• called for this naval support to be coordinated.

• asked for more robust support, whereby the appropriate resolutions and associated legislation are put in place to permit pirates and suspected pirates to be intercepted and, when appropriate, to be arrested and brought to trial.

So far, we have welcomed the French-led convoy system, and there have been some forceful naval interventions, for all of which we are thankful. But the pirates continue to operate and ships continue to be hijacked. So what are the options to stop this piracy?

Shipping industry associations and authorities have been saying that it was already hard enough to patrol the designated corridor through the Gulf of Aden. Now the at-risk zone has been pushed right out into the Indian Ocean, stretching naval forces even further. There are also unconfirmed reports that arms are now being shipped in to the pirates.

Against such a background, we believe we need to consider all options to reduce the risk to our crews and to international trade.

Further options include more naval ships and military support to secure the Maritime Security Patrol Area (MPSA) corridor, informal ‘buddying’ between transiting ships, and focusing on the so-called mother-ships.

In addition, given the recent expansion of the at-risk zone, the effectiveness of the naval/military presence could be increased by their coordinating a security cordon around the Somali coasts. Under UN or other mandate, these forces could be authorised to investigate suspicious craft and take whatever action is necessary. while at the same time recognising the legitimacy of local fishermen and other trade including humanitarian aid.

The long term solution will of course only be found ashore in Somalia.