The United Nations marked World Maritime Day today with a warning of the high costs that piracy is imposing on the shipping industry, and a call for collective action from UN agencies, governments and military forces to combat the problem.
“During 2010 alone, 4,185 seafarers were attacked by pirates using firearms – even rocket propelled grenades, 1,090 were taken hostage, and 516 were used as human shields. No fewer than 488 were reported suffering significant psychological or physical abuse,” said International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos.
In his message to mark the Day, Mr. Mitropoulos noted that over the years, piracy has taken a high toll in the shipping industry, particularly in the Indian Ocean.
“While innocent seafarers bear the brunt of [pirates’] crimes, the world economy suffers too – an annual cost that is now estimated to be between $7 billion and $12 billion,” he said.
Mr. Mitropoulos said that piracy has become an entrenched problem that cannot be solved by one entity alone.
“While IMO has positioned itself in the epicentre of the concerted efforts being made, it cannot alone supply an instant solution to the issue,” he said.
He stressed that the participation of governments, shipping companies, ship operators and crews, military forces, and UN agencies would all need to act in an orchestral manner if they are to combat piracy successfully.
“Shipping companies must ensure that their ships rigorously apply the IMO guidance and industry-developed best management practices in their entirety, so that, when venturing into the western Indian Ocean region, they comply with all the recommended measures: no ship is invulnerable, in particular those with relatively low freeboards and slow steaming speeds.
“Governments need to back up their oft-stated concern over the situation by deploying military and other resources commensurate, in numbers and technology, with the scale of the problem and with a realistic chance of dealing with it effectively,” he said.
He remarked that the magnitude of the threat and the urgency for a strategic response prompted this year’s theme for the World Maritime Day: ‘Piracy: orchestrating the response.’
“More needs to be done, including the capture, prosecution and punishment of all those involved in piracy; the tracing of ransom money; and the confiscation of proceeds of crime derived from hijacked ships, if the ultimate goal of consigning piracy to the realms of history is to be achieved,” he said.
In his message for the Day, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for renewed commitment to preventing and suppressing unlawful acts at sea, and to bringing the perpetrators to justice.
“Piracy may be an ancient scourge, but there should be no place for it in the 21st century,” he stated. “Modern-day piracy causes terrible suffering to the individual victims and great damage to international seaborne trade and the global economy.
“The international community must do more to combat this lawlessness, not only off the coast of Somalia, in the Gulf of Aden and in the Western Indian Ocean, but anywhere in the world.”
Rome will be the host this year of the World Maritime Day celebrations on 13–14 October. As part of the event, a series of seminars will take place to discuss anti-piracy measures and international cooperation against piracy.