The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has expressed concern that the recent London Somalia conference did not go far enough on piracy.
The ICS said that the conference did not appear to include any firm political commitment, or new actions to eliminate, or significantly reduce, Somali piracy in the immediate future.
Governments must task their military forces to take the attack to the pirates and ensure that the military assets required to do this are maintained so they can continue to defend merchant ships in the best way possible, the ICS said.
Little mention seemed to be have been made to the obligations of governments under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to protect merchant ships and their crews from piracy and the industry feared that the current level of pirate attacks is something, which the governments may be willing to continue to tolerate because ships are out of sight and out of mind, even though they transport about 90% of world trade.
Abdicating responsibility to private armed guards to whom, in the absence of adequate military protection, shipping companies are now resorting in increasing numbers, is not a viable long term solution for eliminating piracy.
Recent press reports might give the impression that the level of piracy off Somalia is decreasing, but the capability of the pirates is actually higher than it has ever been, the ICS warned.
The shipping industry strongly supported the conference’s focus on the need for apprehended pirates to be arrested, taken to a court of law and, if found guilty, be imprisoned, including the announcement to establish a new Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecutions Intelligence Co-ordination Centre based in the Seychelles.
It also welcomed the determination of governments to break the financial chain through legal action against criminal financiers investing in piracy wherever in the world they are identified.
With respect to the latter, ICS noted the commitment to establish an ‘international task force on pirate ransoms in order to understand the ransom business cycle and how to break it.’
However, the shipping industry would be deeply concerned by any suggestion that the payment of ransoms to pirates, in order to secure the release of seafarers being held hostage, should be prohibited, or criminalised, the ICS stressed.
ICS said that it strongly believed that effective compliance with Best Management Practices by shipping companies and recent military intervention with a more aggressive stance, had reduced the pirates’ rate of success.