By Janet Porter | Originally published in LLOYD’S LIST, 2010/09/22
MEDITERRANEAN Shipping Co will consider placing armed guards on its containerships unless more is done to protect vessels and their crews from piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.
The world’s second largest boxline said it would be prepared to take unilateral action as plans were revealed to team up with Maersk Line and CMA CGM in a concerted effort to both draw attention to the continued threat of piracy in the region. They also intend swapping ideas about how best to tackle the problem that is likely to worsen again as the monsoon season comes to an end.
While most shipowners are reluctant to have guns onboard, with Maersk repeating its opposition to armed personnel on its ships, MSC is reviewing the situation after several piracy incidents.
“We do not have armed guards at the moment but we are considering their use, to protect our crew, the ship and the cargo,” MSC’s assistant operations manager Pasquale Ferrar0 told Lloyd’s List.
Since the start of last year, two of MSC’s containerships and one of its cruiseships have come under direct attack, although not boarded, while there have been numerous chases.
Although naval forces have undoubtedly helped to protect ships in the Gulf of Aden, the piracy risk remains high in the Somali basin, forcing ships to speed up, make huge deviations and have more watchkeepers on duty. MSC said it continued to serve all ports in the region, apart from Mogadishu, despite the danger.
With no sign that piracy attacks are likely to recede, the world’s three most powerful lines are hoping their combined voice will send out a clear message that more needs to be done to safeguard commercial shipping lanes.
Maersk Line, MSC and CMA CGM also said that co-operation would include information exchange on safety measures, piracy policies and procedures as well as co-ordination to ensure the issue is addressed with all relevant stakeholders.
“Piracy continues to be a problem for the shipping industry and if we want to address it effectively, we as shipowners must co-operate,” the trio stated. Other lines will be welcome to join the initiative.
“It is vital that the acts of piracy do not go unpunished, which is why appropriate legal frameworks for prosecuting pirates are needed,” they said.
The three lines also called for other steps to be taken, including creation of an effective regional coast guard and possible transit corridors to East Africa.