Friday, October 16, 2009

Lawlessness on the seas

Lawlessness on the seas

The commanding officer and sailors of INS Tabar, India’s stealth frigate that is currently engaged in the Gulf of Eden for anti-piracy surveillance and patrol duty by the Western Naval Command are to be commended for their excellent vigilance and teamwork which prevented several piracy attacks on ships and sank a mother vessel 500 km south-west of Salalah in Oman.
With cooperation from maritime nations piracy and armed robbery should be totally wiped out. International seafarers should not be victimised any more due to piracy attacks. These attacks on ships are a matter of grave concern to the international community of seafarers and their family members.
Such piracy attacks at sea take innocent human lives and seriously impair the dignity of human beings. Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, India, Singapore straits, Somalia and Nigeria are the seven countries which have accounted for more than two-thirds of the piracy attacks.
As per the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Seas (UNCLOS), a pirate who has been apprehended on the high seas is to be dealt with under the laws of the flag state of his captors. Within territorial waters, jurisdiction over armed robbers or pirates rests solely with the coastal state.
In India, at the Tuticorin (Tamil Nadu) and Kandla (Gujarat) ports, armed robbers terrorise ship staff on board ships at anchor, especially in the night. On boarding the ship their first target is to break the lockers of rope, paint, and imported liquor bonded stores and sometimes the container cargo ships having valuable cargo.
In ships calling at Chittagong and Chalan ports (Bangladesh), seafarers have to maintain a 24-hrs piracy watch to prevent armed robbers boarding the ship, although a naval base in Chittagong is just 500 metres away from the port area.
Armed robbers did not spare even the M V River Princess grounded off Candolim beach, where important valuable machinery was found missing as per media reports. Is this not armed robbery or a piracy attempt, where the Goa tourism authorities and the Coast Guard were caught unawares.
The United Nations and the International Maritime Organisation’s safety committee should undertake, on a high priority basis, maritime safety measures which will prevent unlawful acts which threaten the safety of ships and the security of the passengers and crew on board ships worldwide.

Melson F M Louis, Margao

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