The Hong Kong Shipowners’ Association (HKSA) and International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) — a London-based merchant shipping trade association — have issued an urgent appeal to governments to stamp out piracy off Somalia and in the Indian Ocean, Exim News Service informs.
"There is growing concern that the international community is treating the attacks against shipping as somehow ‘tolerable’," said HKSA.
"Pirates are being given a message that their criminal activity carries very few risks in comparison to the payments. As a result, the number of pirates is growing, and there is real danger that, in the absence of a firm response, their methods of hijack and violent kidnapping will be successfully emulated by others elsewhere," HKSA states.
The ICS Chairman, Mr Spyros Polemis, emphasised, "The unacceptable situation in which seafarers’ lives are threatened and Somali pirates operating with impunity cannot be allowed to continue."
Some 1,500 seafarers have been taken hostage by pirates in the last couple of years and they are often held for ransom for months at a time. If a similar number of aircraft passengers had been taken hostage, there would undoubtedly have been a more robust response, Mr Polemis pointed out.
In addition to calling for governments to take a more strategic approach to the suppression of piracy, the shipping industry is seeking increased military response, the statement issued here said.
"While the military has been providing protection in the Gulf of Aden, pirates are now operating throughout the north-west Indian Ocean.
"On any given day, in an area of one million square miles—only about 12 naval vessels are available to come to the aid of merchant ships under attack and these are focused on the Gulf of Aden," the statement lamented.