The campaign, aimed at raising awareness of the human and economic costs of maritime piracy, urges governments around the world to prioritise six key actions:
- Reducing the effectiveness of easily identifiable motherships
- Authorising naval forces to hold pirates and deliver them for prosecution and punishment
- Fully criminalising all acts of piracy and intent to commit piracy under national laws, in accordance with their mandatory duty to co-operate to suppress piracy under international conventions
- Increasing naval assets available in the affected areas
- Providing greater protection and support for seafarers
- Tracing and criminalising the organisers and financiers behind the criminal networks
So far in 2011, 13 vessels have been hijacked by suspected Somali pirates, with a total of 243 crewmembers taken hostage. In addition, six crew were kidnapped from a vessel that was hijacked and then left adrift in the Indian Ocean. Of most concern, however, are the seven murders committed by Somali pirates- three of which were crew on board the hijacked Beluga Nomination.
On 25 February 2011 saw four attempted attacks on vessels over an 8-hour period in the same area, which suggests the use of the same mother ship. In three of the four incidents vessels were fired upon, with either with automatic weapons or rocket-propelled grenades. A further two incidents were reported on 27 and 28 February 2011, the second of which resulted in the successful hijacking of a vessel and her 24 crewmembers. Given the distances and time involved between the six incidents, it is a distinct possibility that they were all launched from the same mother ship.
IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan commented: “The past six months have seen a significant escalation in pirate activity off the coast of Somalia. Strong action against suspected motherships is necessary to prevent further attacks. Recent months have seen robust action by several navies, most notably South Korea, Malaysia and India, and we urge countries with naval vessels in the region, in consultation with the shipowners, to follow this lead.”
The Save Our Seafarers (SOS) campaign asserts that 90% of the world’s food, fuel, raw materials and manufactured goods delivered by sea. Of this, around half travels through the pirate-infested Indian Ocean. The Open Earth Foundation estimates that piracy costs the world economy between USD 7 and 12 billion per year.
Mr Mukundan continued: “There have been reports of greater violence and mistreatment of the sailors in pirate captivity. This is unacceptable. We urge governments to commit greater resources to this problem and push for more prosecution of the pirates- the SOS campaign reports that 80% of those pirates caught are released without prosecution – this is precisely the wrong signal to send to the pirates.”