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The international shipping community is loudly cheering the recent rescues of the hijacked chemical tankers Samho Jewelry and Bunga Laurel. We’re glad as well, but we’re not about to hyperventilate. The successful commando operations are small triumphs in the protracted war on piracy. The problem is that more people may now look upon the use of force as the best – and even the only – way to deal with the Great Plague. Unfortunately, BIMCO and three other shipping associations do little to counter this gung-ho attitude in their joint press release, which we reproduce here in full. ~Barista Uno

Shipping industry reacts to successful action against pirate hijackers

BIMCO, the International Chamber of Shipping, INTERCARGO and INTERTANKO congratulate the governments of the Republic of Korea and of Malaysia, and their naval and joint action forces, on repossessing from Somali pirate gangs the hijacked chemical tankers Samho Jewelry and Bunga Laurel and freeing their crews from captivity. We respect and value the bravery of the special operations teams involved and the risks they took.

We are very pleased that the tankers’ seafarers are safe having incurred minimum casualties and we hope that the Samho Jewelry’s Master makes quick and full recovery.

The situation in recent weeks though has changed radically. Not only are there now 30 ships and more than 700 seafarers in captivity for as long as seven months on average, but also the pirates are employing new tactics. They make greater use of so-called mother ships, some of them large hijacked vessels, which has vastly expanded their range of operation to encompass much of the Arabian Sea between the Gulf of Aden, Somalia and India. They make use of increased firepower to attack, and there are reports of worsening conditions for captured seafarers.

This situation calls for immediate action by governments before these tactics make trading in the area almost impossible. Over 40% of the world’s seaborne oil supply now passes through waters at high risk from pirate attack at a time when studies are indicating that piracy is costing the global economy $7-12 billion per year.

We call on the world’s governments to note the extent to which additional international naval assets in this region are desperately needed, and how they should be empowered to enforce a truly robust response against the pirates before ships are successfully hijacked. (joint press release, 25th January 2011)

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