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Yesterday, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) chairman Spyros M Polemis made a strident call at the Maritime Cyprus conference in Limassol for greater naval presence to counter Somali pirate attacks. He said governments had ceded control of Somali waters and the Indian Ocean to pirates and that the small deployment of naval forces to the region was “like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound.” For sure, his message struck a sympathetic chord – especially amongst shipowners who hate paying for private armed guards to protect their ships.

The fundamental problem, Mr Polemis declared, was “the lack of navy ships that are committed to protecting shipping – a band aid on a gaping wound, although the navies do an excellent job under the circumstances and we commend them for this.” He acknowledged that the use of armed guards, together with adherence to Best Management Practices, reduces the risk of a successful pirate attack. But he said it was no long term solution. “Sadly,” he told the delegates, “one can only conclude from the current response of many governments that those thousands of seafarers that have so far been captured have simply had the wrong nationality. If they were all Americans or Europeans, the governments’ attitude might have been somewhat different.”

It was one spicy speech. We’re just not sure if it was grounded on reality. In April 2010, a Reuters news dispatch quoted Admiral Mark Fitzgerald, commander of US Naval Forces, Europe and Africa, as saying: “We could put a World War 2 fleet of ships out there and we still wouldn’t be able to cover the whole ocean.” The good Admiral cited attacks from the Gulf of Aden and the Mozambique Channel to off the coast of India.

That’s the problem: the wound remains bigger than the bandage ~Barista Uno

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