- Opening a new front for collaboration in anti-piracy operation in Eastern Africa, India and Somalia signed an agreement for transfer of sentenced convicts.
The visit of the Foreign Minister of Somalia
- The entire scope of India-Somalia bilateral relations, including the issue of piracy and maritime security, were discussed between the two sides during the meetings.
- Discussions on regional issues pertaining to developments in the Gulf region and India’s neighbourhood were held.
- An agreement for transfer of sentenced persons between India and Somalia was also signed during the visit.
- The collaboration between two sides will be significant due to the occurrences of piracy that have affected Indian interests in the Indian Ocean region near the Horn of Africa.
- India has in recent years extended development assistance to Somalia which has included mini buses to the war-battered country.
- Diplomatic exchanges between India and Somalia have been infrequent, however, Somalia had participated in the 2015 India-Africa Forum Summit.
Navy’s role in Anti – Piracy
- All of this started in September 2008 when Pirates attacked a registered merchant vessel that was travelling from Hong Kong to Europe, later which was taken to the Somali coast.
- Somali pirates have been constantly trying to attack vessels, especially in the Gulf of Aden.
- Indian Government has taken major initiatives to put up potential anti-piracy fights.
- India’s trade majorly depends on the sea traffic; it was necessary for India to deploy special vessels for anti-piracy.
- Up to $50 billion of Indian Imports and $60 billion of exports pass through Gulf of Aden, including oil and fertilizers.
- Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) is one of the important formulations that is aimed to coordinate Indian Navy’s activities with the Navies of foreign countries, all in the Gulf of Aden.
- Since 2012, India, China and Japan have mutually agreed to share their warship movements in the Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy actions.
- This coordination agreement was initiated under Shared Awareness and De-confliction (SHADE) meeting by CHF (Combined Maritime Forces) in 2011.
- Moreover, India and EU (European Union) have also come together to launch joint operations in the Indian Ocean for anti-piracy
When did the problem of piracy start in Indian Ocean?
- The issue of piracy against merchant vessels poses a significant threat to world shipping.
- Back in 2011, there were 439 pirate attacks and 45 merchant vessels hijacked worldwide.
- 237 of these attacks and 28 of these hijackings occurred in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia, and in the wider Indian ocean.
- Although liner vessels, container ships and roll-on/roll-off vessels are generally considered to be at lower risk for hijackings because of their higher operating speeds and freeboard (height above the water), liner vessels have been consistently targeted by Somali pirates.
- In 2010, 32 liner vessels were attacked and six were hijacked.
- In 2011, 65 liner vessels were attacked and one was hijacked. As of spring-2012, eight liner vessels have been attacked and one has been hijacked.
- As of spring-2012 there have been more than 51 attacks off Somalia (121 worldwide), 11 hijackings off Somalia (13 worldwide), and over 158 hostages taken off Somalia.
- Somali pirates are now using hijacked merchant ships as mother ships to carry out attacks in the north Arabian Sea and near the coastline of India, more than 1500 nautical miles from Somalia.
- Pirates operate multiple, high-speed skiffs to approach and fire on the bridges of vessels with automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) in an attempt to slow or stop the vessels so the pirates can get on board.
- Once a vessel has been hijacked, the pirates typically request a large ransom payment for the safe return of the crew, vessel and cargo.
In a response to Somalia attack, the leading maritime shipping associations and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) initiated the “Save Our Seafarers” campaign, in which governments were asked to take the following steps to eradicate piracy at sea and ashore:
- Reduce the effectiveness of the easily identifiable pirate mother ships.
- Authorize naval forces to detain pirates and deliver them for prosecution and punishment.
- Fully criminalize all acts of piracy and the intent to commit piracy under national laws in accordance with their mandatory duty to cooperate to suppress piracy under international conventions.
- Increase naval assets available in the area.
- Provide greater protection and support for seafarers.
- Trace and criminalize the organizers and financiers behind the criminal networks.
Addressing the threat
- Successfully addressing this threat is a complex challenge for both governments and businesses.
- The World Shipping Council (WSC) and its member companies are working closely with the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), other international maritime trade associations, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and various governments to closely monitor the ongoing piracy crisis in the Indian Ocean and to reduce the risk that commercial vessels transiting the affected region will be attacked and successfully hijacked.
- The WSC is playing an active role in the development and revision of the industry Best Management Practices (BMPs) for ships to prevent and respond to pirate attacks.
- The BMPs call on vessels to communicate their intentions to transit the piracy high risk area to Naval Forces in the region and to employ vessel self-protection measures based on a vessel-specific risk assessment.
- The BMPs also provide ships with important steps to take if boarded by pirates.
- To help address the piracy issue, the IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 89) recently approved interim guidance to ship owners/operators for the use of private armed guards on ships operating in the high risk area, and draft interim recommendations to flag states on the use of private armed guards.
- Pirates were dealt under the constraints of IPC (Indian Penal Code) and old Admiralty Law.
- Amendments in Admiralty Law was passed recently by Lok Sabha in 2016 to handle piracy more effectively.
- This law gives more power to the Navy to deal with sea pirates.
- It also comprehensively defines piracy, person who can be termed as a pirate, Law courts that will prosecute pirates and their respective punishments.
- Recently- May 2017, INS Sharda, which was deployed in Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy operation has known to rescue a Liberian merchant vessel named Lord Mountbatten attacked by pirates.
- Till date, IN continues to deploy its ships in the Gulf of Aden to maintain 24×7 presence in such a highly piracy-infested region.
- INS Sharda is recognized as the 63rdINS to be a participant of anti-piracy operation. About 120 pirates have been apprehended by IN and up to 74 fishermen have been rescued by now.
- April-2017, IN together with Chinese Navy also helped to rescue a cargo ship MV OS35 which was hijacked by Somalia Pirates in the Gulf of Aden.