Monday, April 23, 2007
The International Maritime Bureau warned seafarers to remain on alert while travelling on the Piracy-Prone Malacca Strait despite a fall in attacks. Pottengal Mukundan, London-based director of IMB, told AFP that there was "no room for complacency," since pirates were merely lying low due to aggressive patrols by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Mukundan said if the three Southeast Asian countries that border the Malacca Strait let up in their patrols, "pirate attacks will rise again." Maintaining and securing the waterway has always been regarded as the responsibility of the littoral states that border the sea lane -- Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. The three Southeast Asian countries have implemented several security measures, including coordinated air and sea patrols, to secure the Malacca Strait, one of the world's most important and busiest waterways. Mukundan said the IMB welcomed any move by the littoral states to upgrade security in the strait, including joint patrols. "It will be a great step forward to improve security in the strait. It will be a great help to the industry," he said. Malaysia recently said it was ready to study ways to boost security in the Malacca Strait, including conducting sensitive joint maritime patrols with Indonesia and Singapore.Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said there were "regional sensitivities" to overcome -- joint patrols could allow warships from one country to enter another's territorial waters -- but flagged Malaysia could warm to the plan. More than 30 percent of world trade passes through the strait, and the volume of traffic has increased dramatically, with more than 62,600 ships using the strait in 2005, up 42 percent from 44,000 ships in 1999. Half of the world's oil shipments travel through the waterway. Mukundan said a new problem posing a risk to seafarers was the rise in incidents of hostage-taking and kidnapping. "It is a worrying trend, especially in Somalia and Nigeria," he said, referring to incidents in the first three months of 2007. He declined to elaborate. The IMB will release its first quarter piracy report on Tuesday. Mukundan said last year 263 crew were taken hostage or kidnapped worldwide, adding that three people had not been recovered, "believed to be killed." In June, maritime experts and enforcement agencies will gather in Malaysia to discuss new challenges to seafarers worldwide at an event organised by the IMB and a local law enforcement agency.