Maritime Piracy Risks Are Expanding

Piracy concerns continue to plague shippers, and industry analysts now estimate that maritime piracy and armed robbery at sea cost the global economy between $7 and $12 billion each year.

Over the past few months, I've noticed more headlines in the news, as government agencies, international naval forces, the UN and even private firms announce plans to enhance efforts to help ensure safe passage of merchant ships in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean.

For example, a few weeks ago, the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs and DP World hosted a high-level conference called Global Challenge, Regional Responses: Forging a Common Approach to Maritime Piracy. The final declaration from this conference acknowledges that piracy is expanding and represents a threat to all nations.

In addition, on April 11, the UN Security Council adopted yet another resolution addressing piracy off the coast of Somalia. The tenth such resolution since 2008, Resolution 1976 calls for a comprehensive strategy for anti-piracy law enforcement, including "consistent with applicable rules of international human rights law, measures aimed at facilitating the transfer of suspected pirates for trial, and convicted pirates for imprisonment, including through relevant transfer agreements or arrangements."

As Oceans Beyond Piracy points out, the Security Council is considering establishing two courts specialized in trying suspected pirates inside Somalia as well as a similar court located outside Somalia as laid out in the Jack Lang Report.

Private security companies are increasing their counter-piracy efforts, as well. According to UPI.com, the leading British insurer Jardine Lloyd Thompson is now organizing a fleet of 18 gunboats to shepherd convoys of vessels across the Gulf of Aden.

Why implement this show of force? In the UPI article, Joe Angelo, managing director of the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, is quoted as saying the piracy problem "is spinning out of control into the entire Indian Ocean."

Clearly, the time for debate over this issue has long passed. We need continued international collaboration on a comprehensive counter-piracy plan so that critical shipping lanes are not disrupted.

Every year, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) celebrates World Maritime Day in late September. This year's theme is Piracy: Orchestrating the response, so I suspect this issue will continue to stay in the spotlight where it belongs.

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