Piracy conference urges international intervention to protect shipping off Somalia

  • 12 June 2007

The Tri-annual IMB conference on Piracy and Maritime Security yesterday in Kuala Lumpur called upon navies operating off the Horn of Africa to intervene in the spate of hijacking of vessels off the coast of Somalia.

Somalia has been identified as the area with the highest piracy risk in the world by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

Speaking at the 6th tri-annual Conference on Piracy and Security Conference, in Kuala Lumpur, Captain Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB stated: “In 2007 to date there have been 15 reported attacks on vessels in or near Somali waters. This exceeds the total of 10 which occurred in the entire year of 2006.”

Captain Mukundan added: “In the absence of any effective law enforcement in Somalia, the only forces able to assist vessels under attack are the navies of the international coalition. We request that they interrogate suspicious craft in international waters off southern Somalia and prevent hijacked vessels from being taken into Somali waters. If these acts of piracy continue unchecked, commercial shipping in this region will remain threatened.”

The most recent attack occurred on the Denmark-flagged general cargo vessel MV Danica White during her voyage from the United Arab Emirates to Kenya. Pirates in three small vessels hijacked the MV Danica White and five crewmembers over one hundred nautical miles off the coast of Somalia. Coalition aircraft spotted the vessel with three boats in tow, reportedly heading towards Mogadishu. The hijackers are believed to be armed.

This attack is the latest in several incidents that have occurred at a similar distance off shore where the Somali coastline heads into the Indian Ocean. This suggests that the pirates may be operating from a mother ship in that area.

There are also reports of the killing of a seaman taken hostage in Somalia on another vessel. The vessel has reportedly been held in Somali waters since mid-May after being hijacked by an armed gang. Negotiations over the release of the vessel appear to have come to a standstill.

IMB statistics indicate that the murder of hostages held by Somali pirates is rare. Attacks in this region are ordinarily economically motivated, in pursuit of a ransom. If the murder report is accurate it would represent a serious escalation in the violence against kidnapped seafarers.

Captain Mukundan stated: “The last three months have seen a marked increase in the number of attacks and violence against seafarers in Somali waters. Many of these attacks have occurred well offshore. As a result, IMB recommends that all vessels not calling into Somali ports remain at least 200 miles from the coast.”