The urgent need to curb piracy cannot be overstated. This is according to Chairman of the Shipping Association of Guyana (SAG), Andrew Astwood.
In a message to mark World Maritime Day, which was celebrated Thursday, Astwood said that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) chose this year’s theme “Piracy: Orchestrating the Response” as the basis for its work over the next year.
According to Astwood, it is a manifestation of the IMO’s overall concern about safeguarding human life at sea, to meet the challenges of modern-day piracy and, in so doing, generate a broader, global response to eradicate it.
The intention has also been to complement and continue in the spirit of the 2010 theme which was dedicated to seafarers.
The thorny issue of piracy has been manifested in the waters off the coast of Somalia, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea and the wider Indian Ocean more than elsewhere.
Ships carrying oil out of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman are now firmly within the sights of pirates who have become bolder, more audacious, more aggressive and violent and seem to be better organized than ever before, according to the IMO General Secretary, Efthimios E. Mitropoulos.
In the past 12 months alone, there have been 286 piracy-related incidents off the coast of Somalia, resulting in 67 hijacked ships, with 1130 seafarers on board.
Today, 714 seafarers are being held for ransom on board 30 ships scattered at various points of the country’s extensive coastline.
While acts of piracy and armed robbery have been prevalent over the past few years, the Government only recently toughened the anti piracy law, and simultaneously implemented a set of measures to step up patrols and assist the victims of piracy in Guyana.
According to the head of the Shipping Association of Guyana (SAG), the body has also been addressing this problem.
“…We fully support and salute the efforts of all stakeholders. The issue of security remains on the front burner in the deliberations between SAG and the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) alongside other stakeholders within the local shipping industry,” Astwood said.
The international community, the IMO to be precise, with active support from the United Nations, has served up a menu of measures to gain some more ground in their fight against piracy in international waterways, which will take effect from today, World Maritime Day 2011.
They include increasing pressure at the political level to secure the release of all hostages being held by pirates; reviewing and improving the IMO’s guidelines to promote compliance with the industry’s best management practices; recommending several preventative, evasive and defensive measures, including armed escort ships; and assisting States to build capacity especially in pirate-infested regions of the world to deter and bring to justice those who commit these acts.
“On the observance of World Maritime Day, I, as an administrator functioning within the maritime environment, salute the efforts of all those institutions involved in promoting and implementing the required standards and best practices intended to influence improvement. The issue of piracy requires a well devised and coordinated response with input from every stakeholder,” Astwood stated.
“Let us use today as a day of reflection and one for recommitting our efforts to the achievement of set goals in the Maritime Sector,” he added.
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