A Threat To Maritime Security: Piracy Attacks

05 May 2014 - 08:24

Approximately 90% of the world trade is transported by narrow, high risk and strategically important chokepoints including the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, the Suez Canal, Bab el-Mandeb Strait, the Strait of Hurmuz, Gulf of Aden, the Turkish Straits, the Strait of Gibraltar and the Panama Canal. About 33,000 ships a year navigate the Gulf of Aden, which is one of the most important trade routes in the world. Around 26 percent of world oil transportation and 14 percent of ship transportation passed through the Gulf of Aden. Moreover, The Gulf of Aden and Suez Canal are also the main trade routes for dry commodities and containerized cargo and manufactured goods between Asia, Europe and the Americas.
The threat of sea piracy is a major international dimension of maritime security issue in the world. Maritime pirates usually attack in commercially strategic narrow, and/or risky waterways. Pirates and terrorists risk choking key world trade routes which includes chokepoints that are a critical part of global energy security The hijacking of crew or vessels on the narrow shipping lanes or sea routes causes seriously delays in or damage to international maritime trade. Maritime piracy has been on the rise for years, according to the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) Piracy Reporting Center. 
The international energy market is dependent upon reliable transport. The blockage of a chokepoint, even temporarily, can lead to substantial increases in total energy costs. In addition, chokepoints leave oil tankers vulnerable to theft from pirates, terrorist attacks, and political unrest in the form of wars or hostilities as well as shipping accidents which can lead to disastrous oil spills.
A total of 297 incidents of piracy were reported to the IMB in 2012. There were 138 incidents in second quarter of 2013. The most of these attacks was occured in Africa with 150 incidents, respectively South East Asia with 104 incidents, Indian Sub-Continent with 19 incidents, America with 17 incidents and Far East with 7 incidents recorded in 2012. 
Attacks have dropped significantly in Gulf of Aden, Somalia, Malacca Straits, South China Sea in 2013. The attacks are continuing to increase in the waters of the Indonesia (48%), Nigeria (22%), Bangladesh, Colombia, India (6%), and Egypt (5%) in the period of January-June 2013. Other risky regions are Benin, Togo, Gulf of Guinea, Vietnam, Tanzania, Peru, Malaysia, Singapure Straits and Colombia (The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) IMB Report for the period 1 January-30 June 2013). 
Worldwide 174 vessels were boarded, 28 vessels hijacked, 67 vessels attempted and 28 vessels  fired upon in 2012. A total of  585 crewmembers were taken hostage, 26 kidnapped, 28 injured and 6 reported killed in 2012. The number of people taken hostage onboard fell to 585 from 802 in 2011. 
Pirates are particularly violent, with guns reported in 113 of the attacks in 2012. The vessels most commonly attacked are bulk carriers, container ships and tankers loaded with oil, chemicals and other products. Tugs, fishing vessels, general cargo vessels and other smaller boats are also at risk (ICC, IMB Report for the period of 1 January-31 December 2012). 
It estimates that maritime piracy cost the global economy between $5.7 and 6.1 billion in 2012. The economic cost of piracy in 2011, estimated that piracy cost the world $5.3-5.5 billion. The cost of piracy dropped by about 12.6% since 2011 (The Economic Cost of Somali Piracy, One Earth Future Foundation Working Papers, 2012, BIMCO). The piracy attacks have forced ships to opt for the more costly and lengthy alternative route named the Cape of Good Hope instead of the Suez Canal. 
The primary causes of maritime piracy are increased maritime transportation, economic drivers such as poverty and high unemployment rates, insufficient coastline and port surveillance and inspection capacity, the efforts of the Somalian people to protect their fish, the prospect of windfall profits, regional internal political and economic instability and loopholes in legal instruments, as well as corruption. Maritime piracy has also been linked with ideological aims, thus suggesting that piracy can evolve into more deadly forms of maritime terrorism. 
 The IMB estimates that more than 50 percent of the piracy incidents are not reported due to the following reasons: the consequences of reporting the incident means investigations and delays that result in costs for the shipping companies reporting a piracy attack is often time-consuming; the attacks cause the increase in insurance premiums and reputation damage for shipping companies can play a role in reporting piracy incidents. 
International efforts to combat maritime piracy must be examined from two perspectives: the international legal framework for controlling maritime piracy and multinational efforts. International legal framework largely consists of treaties and conventions which either set out rules or impose obligations upon contracting countries to control maritime piracy unilaterally or collectively. The major international treaties and conventions concerning piracy control are the 1958 Geneva Convention on the High Seas, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation 1988 (SUA) and 1988 The United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Article 17). The UNCLOS Convention contains a number of provisions on piracy control and impose obligations upon contracting countries to engage in collective efforts to combat piracy (Articles 100-107). Article 100 of the UNCLOS requires all States to cooperate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy on the high seas or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any State. The main purpose of the SUA convention is to ensure that appropriate action is taken against persons committing unlawful acts against ships consistent with applicable international law. 
Other related conventions, clauses and regulations are The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) which is is a comprehensive set of measures to enhance the security of ships and port facilities developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), IMO Resolutions and Circulars;  United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolutions 1801, 1816, 1838, 1844, 1846, 1851 which all make explicit reference to the growing concern over piracy and provide recommendations for action; The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia (RECAAP); The Djibouti Code of Conduct concerning the repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Western Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden; Automatic Identification System (AIS) and Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT).   Additionally, multinational efforts to combat maritime piracy such as NATO which are permitted to take measures to secure their regions, European Union’s military capability, is called EU NAVFOR, the international community and coalition forces. Moreover fleets, coastguards, police marine units, customs and other government agencies engaged in Southeast Asia are taking measures against the piracy threat. In addition Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, all coastal states, have conducted joint naval patrols.
For pirate attacks, a security corridor, called that International Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) that is protected by warships, has been established to improve the safety of shipping in these dangerous waterways; ships and boats are advised to travel in convoys.
In addition to internationally recognized security measures to combat maritime piracy, other recommendations are: competency in crisis management; effective port and coast surveillance and control mechanisms; security plans for ships, port facilities, coasts and anchorages, to develop action plans for the attacks: technical collaboration for the full implementation of IMO standards and conventions; training of coastline personnel and crews, joint surveillance and patrol between states, effective information gathering and sharing; measures taken aboard the vessel to enhance self-defense capability; tracking of financial flows and distrupting money flows concerning pirates; adoption of legislation and legal instruments to govern jurisdiction for instituting legal proceedings against pirates should be adopted. The legislation must be amended to create a legal framework for prosecuting pirates. Ships and boats should be advised to travel in convoys in International Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC). All attacks or threats of attacks should be reported immediately to the nearest Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCC) or coast radio station (Ece, N.J., “The Maritime Dimension of International Security: Piracy Attacks” NATO Science for Peace and Security Series - E: Human and Societal Dynamics, Maritime Security and Defence Against Terrorism, IOS Press, Volume 98, 2012, 33-49 (2012)). Privately contracted armed security personnel on board commercial vessels are used. It was estimated that around 30% of ships employed private armed security in 2012. Moreover, the armed security personnel may lead to an escalation of violence. For legal and safety reasons, Flag States should strongly discourage the carrying and use of firearms by seafarers for personal protection or for the protection of a ship. 
International community needs new strategies to combat maritime piracy and a multidimensional approach is required. International community should  provide financial and social support to these countries to ensure maritime security and freedom of navigation on the high seas and strategic waters as a permanent solution.

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