LONDON: Shipping associations, marine insurers and unions joined forces on Wednesday to demand "concrete action" from governments to end Somali piracy. Somali pirates have stepped up their attacks in recent months, making tens of millions of dollars in ransoms from seizing ships, including tankers and dry bulkers, in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), an umbrella association of 760 global unions, together with world shipping and marine insurance bodies, said the chances of economic recovery were "being jeopardized by this threat to world trade".
Spyros Polemis, president of the International Shipping Federation, which represents 75 percent of the global seaborne industry, said more than 1,800 seafarers had been kidnapped in the past two years in increasingly violent attacks.
"Ninety per cent of world trade is carried by sea and governments have a duty to extend the naval protection being provided — which is currently inadequate — and regain control of the Indian Ocean from a handful of criminals," Polemis said.
Foreign navies have boosted activities off the Gulf of Aden since 2009 and have operated convoys, as well as setting up a transit corridor across dangerous waters. But their forces have been stretched over the vast area, leaving ships vulnerable.
An estimated 7 percent of world oil consumption passes through the Gulf of Aden. Ship brokers have said some tankers are traveling as far as Madagascar or even around the Cape of Good Hope to avoid seaborne gangs.
The maritime coalition has launched an online petition which it said aimed to "persuade all governments to commit the resources necessary" to end Somalia-based piracy. It sought to collect half a million signatures to present to governments.
"With one click everyone can now make their feelings about piracy known," ITF General Secretary David Cockroft said.
Prosecution of captured pirates has been hampered by disagreements over which country should try them. Somalia itself lacks the legal infrastructure to support trials.
The European Union’s top foreign affairs diplomat said on Wednesday Kenya must not be left to carry the financial burden and security risks of prosecuting Somali pirates.
INTERTANKO, an association whose members own the majority of the world’s tanker fleet, said rules of engagement for naval forces needed to be "robust enough to tackle piracy head-on" while ensuring there were effective powers in place to "arrest, detain and bring to justice" seaborne gangs.
"Governments will be well aware of the dramatic and economically damaging impact on global trade if the world’s ship owners and seafarers were to conclude that they can no longer safely trade their vessels through this region," it said.