BIMCO, the International Chamber of Shipping, INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO and the International Transport Workers’ Federation were one in condemning last week the execution of a seafarer by Somali pirates who had hijacked the Beluga Nomination in the Indian Ocean 390 nautical miles north of the Seychelles. This was plain murder, but what did people expect? Even the pirates of old were brutish; they killed, tortured and even sodomized their captives. And as we’ve been saying all along, this is war and the first casualty of war is humaneness.

We understand the outrage. The joint press statement issued by the shipping associations and the ITF read in part: “The international shipping industry is truly disturbed at reports that pirates have been torturing seafarers physically and mentally, often in the most barbaric ways, including hanging them over the ship’s side by ropes around their ankles with their heads under water and even subjecting them to the horrendous practice of keelhauling.” Ironically, news of the Indian Ocean killing broke out just hours before the International Maritime Organization launched its 2011 six-point action plan against piracy, to wit:

  • increase pressure at the political level to secure the release of all hostages being held by pirates;
  • review and improve the IMO guidelines to Administrations and seafarers and promote compliance with industry best management practice and the recommended preventive, evasive and defensive measures ships should follow;
  • promote greater levels of support from, and coordination with, navies;
  • promote anti-piracy coordination and co-operation procedures between and among States, regions, organizations and industry;
  • assist states to build capacity in piracy-infested regions of the world, and elsewhere, to deter, interdict and bring to justice those who commit acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships; and
  • provide care for those attacked or hijacked by pirates and for their families.

There’s really nothing new or exciting in the IMO plan. We’ve heard it all before. BIMCO and allied groups have been singing the same refrain in press releases, conferences and last year’s much-publicised anti-piracy petition. The maritime press has joined the chorus. “UN declares war on piracy” read the headline in IFW, Informa’s freight and logistics news service. Has war really been declared on the Somali pirates? What we know is that the pirates have declared war on world shipping. ~Barista Uno

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