Many years ago, the architect of
But let us get back to the oceans, in this case the
From a $135,000 ransom for the ‘Semlow’ in 2005, it has now reached a $25 Million demand for the Saudi Oil tanker ‘Sirius Star’ (While the pirates have so far earned a total 150M$ in 2008). Currently some 15-17 ships (95 plus attacks this year) are held captive by the Somalis. The average going rate is a ransom of 1M$ per ship.
Why did this happen? Why are ships being terrorized? While an answer points to greed, it was primarily due to antiquated maritime laws which do not make it easy for a merchant ship to carry arms. To this day they have only water cannons and possibly acoustic bangers even though some have recently started to employ security guards. One other reason is that tanker environments are too explosive for arms to be carried or used. So what can these ships do? Either travel in convoys with an armed escort, or reroute away from the Gulf and employ faster, bigger ships. But that adds to the cost (fuel bills alone increase by 20-25%) and delays the shipment. Peter Hinchcliffe, marine director with the International Chamber of Shipping, explains to ABC News Australia
“First of all we think that to put arms on board, even with trained armed guards, is not a good thing to do, because that is going to increase the potential heat and damage out of a firefight.” So we're not in favour for that reason, but there are more fundamental reasons. “Firstly that some flag states do not allow ships flying their flag to carry small arms on board.” And even more serious from a commercial point of view, some port states will not allow the ships into their ports if there are small arms on board.
Further complicating are other issues like if a ‘pirate’ is killed, the ship would have to enter port and her master and crew would be detained and questioned. You can imagine their plight in a lawless country like
Here is a real pointer - Senior shipping sources said the move of Indian armed security follows a recent refusal by a Western naval patrol to protect an Indian merchant ship that felt “vulnerable” to attacks on what is perhaps the world’s most dangerous stretch of water. “When the Indian captain asked for protection, he was asked, firstly, about which flag he was flying, then about the nationality of his crew, and finally about which cargo he was carrying,” said Shipping Corporation of
The nation of 1.1 billion people provides one-sixth of the world's maritime workers and every month it sends 30 Indian-owned vessels carrying oil and other goods valued at $100 billion through the
And now, who are the pirates and what is their cause? CSM explains
Today's pirates are mainly fighters for
Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenya-based East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme told Deutsche Presse that there were fewer than 100 gunmen operating in 15 groups in 2005. Now there are some 160 groups with a total of up to 1,200 pirates operating in
Finally I read reports that India has to seek UN approval for each operation and that recently Somali had acceded to India’s request to enter their waters. With the going average ransom rate at 1M$ and possible local competition, the Somali pirates have not been troubled by sailing brazenly as far as 400 nautical miles from their shores as they did in capturing the Saudi tanker. Or is it that they realize that time could run out soon for them?
I agree that it is time to take the fight to the pirates and if the Indian Navy has to set an example, let it be so. Kudos to the navy!! KM Panikkar would finally be smiling from up above!!
Update - 26th Nov 2008: It has now been clarified that the destroyed trawler was the Thai fishing vessel Ekawat Nava 5 which was comandeered by Somali pirates before the event. A survivor recounts that the ship was hijacked by 10 Somali pirates on Nov 18th.
Dimensions of National Security: The Maritime Aspect
Pirate speedboat - from Herald Sun
Location map - WSJ
INS Thabar - from globalsecurity.org
Barum mother ship - NPR