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Maritime Piracy is a huge concern for Indian seafarers nowadays

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HONG KONG : Piracy, a menace rooted in lawlessness on land, demands a comprehensive and land-based solution as use of private guards aboard merchant navy ships, while a deterrent to piracy, poses challenges in piracy-prone volatile oceans as suggested by Bjorn Hojgaard, CEO of shipping conglomerate Anglo-Eastern Univan Group – one of the largest employers of Indian seafarers.

Maritime piracy is a huge cause of concern for Indian seafarers who comprise around 11% global workforce. Currently, around 2.5 lakh Indian seafarers serve thousands of specialized cargo vessels across the globe as ratings (semi-skilled workers) and highly-skilled merchant navy officers. Figures released by International Maritime Bureau states that in the last 10 months, there’s been over 10% rise in serious incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery, and pirates armed with arms have been able to board around 90% of the targeted cargo ships unfortunately putting the lives of seafarers on board the vessels in grave danger.

Hojgaard added “Thus, the lack of a legal framework, unclear rules of engagement and inconsistent reporting exacerbate the risks faced by seafarers. Moreover, vessels in piracy affected waters risk being manipulated for political ends, with crews unwittingly drawn into conflicts not of their making.

According to Hojgaard, to address the issue of maritime piracy, a UN-backed international force, operating under the blue beret operations scheme, emerges as a practical and ethical solution. “This force, available on a voluntary basis, can provide vessels with trained and armed UN troops and naval escort, ensuring a legal framework for liabilities, training, armament, rules of engagement, and reporting,” he said.

Mr. Girish Phadnis, Chairman of India’s leading shipping association, Maritime Association of Shipowners Shipmanagers and Agents (MASSA), said, “To fight maritime piracy, we have petitioned to the Indian Shipping Ministry to provide an escort of Indian Naval Vessel to every cargo vessels passing through Red Sea and carries either an Indian cargo and/or has Indian seafarers on-board, and/or is an Indian flag cargo vessel.”

The Red Sea, which connects the eastern part of the globe to the western part through the Aden-Suez Canal corridor, is an extremely busy maritime route which has come under severe attack recently from Yemen’s Houthi group.

“The economic costs of maritime piracy and geopolitical exploitation far outweigh the investment needed for preventive measures. Governments across the globe, maritime industry players, and non-governmental organizations must collaborate to finance initiatives to fight maritime piracy, placing the burden on collective shoulders rather than on individual ship owners,” added Hojgaard.

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