Somali piracy is worsening by the week and governments lack
the political will to tackle the crisis, which is threatening world trade
routes, shipping industry officials have said.
Shippers have warned that more than 40 percent of the
world's seaborne oil supply passes through the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea
and is at risk from seaborne gangs, who are able to operate ever further out to
sea and for longer periods, using captured merchant vessels as motherships.
The hijacking of two oil tankers last week in the northern
Indian Ocean has put the key oil transport route in the firing line.
"It is getting worse on a weekly basis," said Peter
Hinchliffe, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping.
"This has been going on now for about three years.
During that period of time we have seen a lack of political will to deal with
the problem and contain it," said Hinchliffe, whose association represents
about 80 percent of the global industry.
Pirate gangs are making tens of millions of dollars in
ransoms, and despite successful efforts to quell attacks in the Gulf of Aden,
navies have been unable to contain piracy in the Indian Ocean because of the
vast distances involved.
"We have very clearly got to the stage where ships
which want to trade oil and energy up through the Arabian Gulf, there is no
option now to avoid pirates in the region," said Howard Snaith, marine
director with INTERTANKO.
"They have the whole of the Indian Ocean pretty much
pinned down," said Snaith, whose members own the majority of the world's
The fight against piracy has been hampered by legal
ambiguities over the appropriate venue to prosecute captured suspects. A UN
envoy this month proposed special courts are set up rapidly in the Somali
enclaves of Somaliland and Puntland, and in Tanzania, to try captured pirates.
Shipping industry officials said the human cost was also
rising as around 800 seafarers are now held captive by Somali gangs. Pirates
are using torture to force crew members to operate captured motherships.
"The industry is lobbying very hard together,"
"There is a lot of inter-government discussion going on
but there is a lack of determination to make sure that the warships are
correctly able to arrest and prosecute in particular, but also to have some
kind of interaction, to make sure that the mothership activity is