IMB conference addresses piracy concerns

  • 11 June 2007

Against a backdrop of hijackings and abduction of crew in Somalia and Nigeria, the ICC International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) 6th Tri-annual Conference on Piracy and Security is underway in Kuala Lumpur.

The conference, held in collaboration with the Royal Malaysian Police, has attracted over 200 delegates representing 38 countries and 13 international organizations.

IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan stated: “This international event allows key players in the areas of law enforcement, government maritime policy and commercial shipping to focus on addressing their common challenges with respect to piracy and security.”

Opening the conference this morning Malaysia’s Deputy Minister for Internal Security Y.B. Dato’ Mohd. Johari Bin Baharum, said that the dramatic reduction in attacks in the Malacca Straits was the result of firm action taken by Malaysia and the littoral states. His address was followed by presentations outlining contemporary responses to piracy and security, and an analysis of hot spots.

YDH Tan Sri Musa Hassan, Inspector General of the Royal Malaysian Police highlighted the importance of neighbouring law enforcement agencies of the Malacca Straits maintaining open channels of communication. He noted that multi-jurisdictional measures, such as coordinated patrols and ‘eye-in-the-sky’ programmes, have resulted in a dramatic drop in piracy attacks in the region.

Analysis of a hijacking was given by Captain Feroze Mirza of Eurasia International, Hong Kong. He related events following the hijacking of a tanker in Somalia. He revealed the tremendous pressures put upon owners and crew in these situations and how the hijacking was successfully resolved and the vessel recovered within 21 days.

Commander Max Mejia of the World Maritime University provided an overview of the existing legal frameworks relevant to maritime security. Commander Mejia described the various international conventions on piracy, such as UNCLOS and SUA, and explained how their specific definitions of piracy vary.

The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC), based in the conference’s host city of Kuala Lumpur, has recorded 17 actual or attempted attacks in Nigerian waters so far in 2007, with 40 seafarers taken hostage.

Mr Mwangura, coordinator of the Seafarers Assistance Programme in East Africa, declared these attacks politically motivated, adding that among the reasons for violence in the Delta region are, “a lack of basic facilities, resentment towards foreign companies and governmental corruption.” He also added that the would-be hijackers are often better equipped and have greater knowledge of the Nigerian Delta than the military forces charged with thwarting them.

Mr Mwangura addressed the recent upwards trend in pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa. “The increasing instances of piracy and armed attacks on shipping are creating a rising reluctance amongst ship owners and crews to make voyages to Somali ports,” he stated.

In addition to dialogue and debate, the conference will feature live exercises and a demonstration of response tactics by the Royal Malaysian police and associated enforcement agencies, tomorrow morning.