No Pirates Here01/29:
For nine months out of the year foreign vessels from around the globe sail to the Great Lakes to trade deep into the heartland of North America. While on the lakes a crew can feel safe that they will not face threats from modern day pirates.
This is not the case while the vessels sail across the worlds oceans. The International Maritime Bureau in London (IMB) has released their annual Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships report for 1999. The report shows the number of reported piracy attacks worldwide for 1999 rose nearly 40% compared with 1998 figures and almost tripled compared
with 1991. While there were no attacks on the Lakes, a total of 285 separate attacks on ships either at sea, at anchor or in port were documented.
While the number of crew killed has declined, the trend to violence is giving renewed cause for concern. Figures released by the IMB show
that pirates carried guns on 53 occasions and that knives were used twice as often as in 1998. Once again, the majority of piracy attacks in the last year took place in South East Asia with the number of attacks in Indonesian waters almost double that of last year.
"Although more attacks are reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Center in Kuala Lumpur now than previously, there can be no doubt that attacks have increased substantially indicating that piratical activity still flourishes in certain areas," the report states. Vessels are reported to have been boarded in 217 instances and on 11 occasions pirates fired upon the ships they were targeting. A total of eight ships were hijacked in 1999, mostly in South East Asia and off Somalia.
"The 1999 Annual Report once again highlights that modern piracy is violent, bloody and ruthless. It is made all the more fearsome because its
victims know they are alone and defenseless," said Captain Jayant Abhyankar, IMB Deputy Director. IMB is a specialized bureau of ICC Commercial Crime Services, a division of the International Chamber of Commerce.
Captain Abhyankar said seafarers had a basic human right to expect to sail on safe ships in safe waters. "It is impossible for those ashore to
fully appreciate the trauma pirate attacks cause, both physically and mentally. Added to this is the danger to shipping and the seaways that can result from pirate activity. Pirates endanger navigation by leaving vessels, including fully laden tankers, underway and not in command, dramatically increasing the risk of collision or grounding and the resulting environmental implications," Captain Abhyankar said
The report says the dramatic rise in piracy-related violence and deaths reported in 1998 was not repeated in 1999 and that, in fact, there has
been a decline in the number of seafarers killed during piratical attacks. The report suggests that this could be due to greater efforts by governments to combat piracy. In the last year, both India and China have arrested alleged ship hijackers and China recently sentenced to death 13 of the hijackers of MV Cheung son, one of the country's most brutal recent cases of piracy involving the murder of 23 Chinese seamen.
The annual report draws attention to IMB's recent initiative to take the fight against piracy onto the Internet with weekly updates of attacks and
warnings. The service, which has been well received in the shipping world, is compiled from daily status bulletins broadcast via satellite from the Piracy Reporting Center. Posting the information on the Internet means shipowners and land based authorities are able to access the updates as well as ships at sea. The address for the weekly report is www.icc-ccs.org.
Reported by: John Stark