Middle East piracy incidents decline in 2002
A significant decrease in piracy in Middle East and African waters has been recorded in 2002 by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). Attacks at sea in the region numbered 75 for 2002, down 25 percent compared to the 100 attacks reported in the previous year 2001. At the same time, the Annual Piracy Report has shown a significant increase in pirate attacks on the world's oceans.
The vulnerability of shipping to terrorist attacks is highlighted in the report. The report stated that attacks like the one in the Gulf of Aden last October, when the French tanker Limburg was rammed by a boat packed with explosives, were difficult to prevent. "No shipboard response can protect the ship in these circumstances."
The only answer was for coastal states to make sure that approaches to their ports were secure. IMB recommended that port authorities designate approach channels under coast guard or police supervision from which all unauthorized craft would be banned.
"The risk of terrorist attack can perhaps never be eliminated, but sensible steps can be taken to reduce the risk," the IMB said. "The issue here is how seriously do the governments take the threat of maritime terrorism…Post-Limburg, we cannot continue to hope for the best and ignore the lessons."
Commenting on last year's tally of 370 attacks on shipping at sea worldwide—up from 335 in 2001—IMB noted that most occurred while ships were at anchor. A marked increase in successful boarding by pirates combined with a drop in the number of attempted attacks suggested that many ships were complacent about the need for additional precautionary measures. "Vigilant anti-piracy watch is still the best deterrent," the report said.
There was a substantial rise in hijackings, up from 16 to 25 incidents. Many involved smaller boats, such as tugs, barges and fishing boats, in the Malacca Straits and Indonesian waters. Crime syndicates in the area were believed to be targeting vessels carrying valuable palm oil and gas oil.
IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan commented: "In some parts of the world it is all too easy to board a merchant vessel unlawfully. Against the current concern in respect of maritime terrorism, it is vital that coastal states allocate resources to patrolling their waters more effectively. Failing this, we do not foresee a reduction in these incidents."
Although the number of crew killed in 2002 was down to 10 compared with 21 in 2001, that figure concealed a chilling statistic—24 passengers or crew were missing, and most of these must be considered dead. The report's summary of attacks on ships frequently noted that pirates threw crewmembers into the sea, leaving them to drown.
Indonesia again experienced the highest number of attacks, with 103 reported incidents in 2002. Piracy attacks in Bangladesh ranked second highest with 32 attacks and India was third with 18 attacks. In South America, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Guyana all showed a marked increase in attacks.
The waters off Somalia are among the most dangerous in the world. "The risk of attack to vessels staying close to the coastline from Somali armed militias has now increased from one of possibility to certainty," the IMB said. "Any vessel, not making a scheduled call in a Somali port, which slows down, or stops close to the Somali coast will be boarded by these gangs." — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)