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February 2010

Searchlight Feature - 10th February 2010

The Continuing Piracy Issue - Part 2

Further to the last issue of our newsletter where we talked about the problem of piracy a maritime conference on the subject has been held this week in Dubai and a spokesman at the conference was quoted as saying “more cash, commitment and warships are urgently needed to step up the battle against pirates”. This and similar utterances have been quoted many times over the last few years but piracy continues to be a growth industry and will continue to be so while it is profitable and offers minimal risk to the perpetrators. Let us remember these people are not the flamboyant rogues perpetuated in films like the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ series, but rather dangerous criminals and thugs brandishing Kalashnikovs, RPG’s and other highly dangerous weapons who capture vessels and their cargos and hold the innocent unarmed crews for ransom, treating them indifferently and sometimes harshly. Once on board many of these pirates become high on hashish and end up a dangerous threat to ships staff. The longer the hijack lasts the greater the risk of crew members being killed by these people while high on drugs. The pirates are people who generally come from a country which is lawless, has no effective government and where life is very cheap.

We see much written about what we cannot do about the pirate problem and not enough about what can be done and should be done. Until we change the tactics and make the occupation of piracy ‘high risk’ for the pirates it is going to continue and most probably increase. Lets stop ‘gnashing our teeth’ and ‘wringing our hands’ on the topic and lets have some good effective concrete action if we are to substantially reduce, if not eliminate this problem. I wonder if the people who sit on committees, make pontifical statements and give interviews on this subject have ever met an innocent seaman who has been traumatised as a result of being subjected to incarceration by these people: if they did maybe they’d be more resolute about actions against the pirates. We are often told that any actions or preventive measures taken must not expose the seaman to added danger and yet while we continue to talk about the problem seamen are actually being killed.