INTERTANKO is delighted that the Irene SL has been released by the Somali pirates who hijacked this tanker and her 2m barrel oil cargo in February, and that Master, officers and crew are in good health after 58 days in captivity – especially after 12 days being used as a pirate mothership.
At the time INTERTANKO’s Managing Director Joe Angelo remarked that the Irene SL hijacking marked a significant shift in Somali piracy, taking the crisis into the middle of the main sea lanes coming from the Middle East Gulf. Her crude oil cargo represented 20% of total U.S. daily crude oil imports, or 5% of total daily world seaborne oil supply.
But further developments are taking place, and seafarers are today closer than ever before to saying enough is enough. These latest developments in pirate tactics include the systematic torture of seafarer hostages, leading in some cases to execution/murder. The systematic use of pirate motherships means that the Somali pirates’ outreach now extends right across the Indian Ocean. No ship in this area is safe from the risk of pirate attack. There is no alternative route any more for the 17 million barrels of oil a day that come out of the Gulf – 40% of the world’s oil supplies have to pass through the Indian Ocean.
“The seafarers’ role in keeping world trade flowing in this area goes largely unrecognised by governments,” says INTERTANKO’s Chairman Capt Graham Westgarth. “Imagine if a 747 jumbo jet had been hijacked with 400 people onboard held for millions of dollars in ransom and that hundreds of other planes had been attacked week in week out over the last year in unsuccessful hijacking attempts. Would there be government action?”
There is little public outcry and therefore relatively little effort by national governments around the world to stop Somali pirates. National governments hold the key to resolving this crisis. But they seem unwilling to face reality and act, says Westgarth. Their brief to the naval forces has, in most cases, been simply to deter and disrupt unless it involves a national interest. Even when caught red handed by naval forces, 80% of pirates are released to attack again. Why? Because the world’s politicians don’t realise the severity of this critical situation. How many ships need to be attacked? How many hostages taken, tortured and killed? How much is enough for national governments to take real action?
Governments might take note of India’s very recent actions. Three days after the decision by India’s government to crack down harder on piracy, a pirate mothership was re-taken by an Indian naval vessel. The hostage crew was released unharmed and 62 pirates were detained and taken to India where they await trial.