The International Maritime Organization (IMO) marked its annual World Maritime Day celebration today with a collective call-to-action to the United Nations, world governments, military forces and even shipowners and crews reminding them that they all play an integral role in helping rid the world of modern-day piracy on the high seas, especially off the coast of Somalia and Indian Ocean.
“Piracy: an orchestrated response”, actually, is the theme of this years World Maritime Day, now in its 34th year. Suitable, considering so far this year a total of 346 attacks have been reported worldwide and Somali pirates currently hold 277 hostages according to figures released by the International Maritime Bureau.
“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 after announcing this years theme in August.
In Mr. Mitropoulos’ World Maritime Day message, he stated: “To alleviate this unacceptable situation, no effort should be spared. 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.”
He continued: “And 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.”
Despite a decrease in the percentage of successful attacks, piracy is still a real and growing problem. A recent number of hijackings and attacks off West Africa, including the Gulf of Guinea, and off the coast of Southeast Africa in the Mozambique Channel, are a testament to the growing issue. Furthermore, the use of violence against hostage seafarers is on the rise, with 15 killed so far in 2011.
Concluding his World Maritime Day message, Mr. Mitropoulos said: “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. We hope that our choice of the theme for 2011 will provide an appropriate rallying point around which all those who can make a difference can focus their efforts.
“In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers are with those seafarers, who, at present, are in the hands of pirates. May they all be released unharmed and returned to their families soon.”
Italy will be hosting the 2011 IMO World Maritime Day Parallel Event with celebrations in Rome on October 13 and 14, 2011.