The Indian delegation made a strong appeal to the World body calling for an end to the unbridled piracy menace beleaguering seafarers. Representing the country’s stand at the 89TH Session of the Maritime Safety Committee of the International Maritime Organization now in progress, it drew the attention to the unspeakable conditions on board such ships and the systematic brutalization of innocent seafarers by pirates which has left all Indians and the world totally shocked.
It drew attention to the plight of 46 Indian seafarers held captive and the recent incident involving an Indian Master who returned home having braved 11 months of torture at the hands of pirates but eventually succumbed to the injuries as a result of unattended medical condition during his captivity.
It reported that the Indian Navy on its part has increased vigil in Indian Search and Rescue Region which resulted in the neutralization of four of the pirate ‘mother ships’ and the capture of 120 pirates and release of 73 crew of these ships. The Indian Navy also provides escort support to convoy of ships of all flags with over 1400 ships have availed these services since 2008.
The Indian Maritime Administration on the other hand has been operating a 24 x 7 communication centre to closely coordinate with all Indian interests, Indian Navy and other piracy mitigating agencies in the region to obviate piracy incident. The communication centre also shares and disseminates piracy related information to all Indian interests and international co-coordinators.
The Indian committee expressed the need for an UN led anti-piracy force off the coast of Somalia instead of navies of various countries operating independently. UN led naval force would provide a more equitable, efficient and better coordinated protection to all ships “If blue berets have been accepted and utilized in enforcing peace on land there was no reason why ‘blue berets concept for blue waters’ could not be accepted,” it stated.
India desires that the Somali coast line be effectively sanitized. All vessels, not withstanding their type or size, leaving the Somali coast may be monitored through the tracking devices. Simultaneously, shipping lanes and adjacent buffer zones could be identified and earmarked as no-go areas for all vessels other than bonafide merchant traffic.
While pirates continue to target merchant ships with impunity – the trade continues. But the worst sufferers are undoubtedly the seafarers. There is therefore a need to support those seafarers who choose not to sail on ships that ply in the piracy infested waters. The delegation underscored the need to issue a MSC resolution, urging the flag states and the ship-owners to sympathetically consider such requests from seafarers.
The issues raised included the impact on merchant vessels by the hike in insurance premia and foreign navies operating closer to the country’s shores, India has taken exception to IMO extending the piracy zone in the Indian Ocean region. The extension would bring the boundary of this danger zone closer to Indian waters on the west coast In this regard India expressed concern because the war-zone limits are extended beyond the existing boundary of 65 degrees east longitude to 78 degrees east, almost next to India’s territorial waters on the western coast.
This would have direct implications on the transaction cost of commodities moving to and from Indian ports. Considering there has been no attacks reported since the last two months within 500 nautical miles of the Indian coast, after the Indian Navy took remedial measures, India insists for the reduction of the eastern boundary of the ‘war zone’ to an appropriate longitude if not brought back to the earlier limit of 65 degrees east.