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The main concern of this blog is to serve as an eye of the public to the Maritime World. People who make their living at sea can rely in this blog to acquire information regarding maritime industry. News and opinions related to sea-piracy can be read in this domain. Articles written on this site are done by the writers of The Piracy Watch. Opinions, comments and suggestions are very much welcome in here but with the discretion of The Piracy Watch, this is to avoid publication of foul and unnecessary words. Essential information about piracy which can be serve as a vital source in knowing things about maritime world are also welcome in this blog.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Whopping Money Inside Piracy

Our fascination for pirates can be traced back during the olden times. Contemporary stories glamorize and commercialize pirates as heroes, while restricting the perception that pirates are precarious thugs living the lives of an outlaw. However, modern spectators view pirates in a different perspective, they are deemed as the villain and treacherous brutes of the maritime world. The people of today are intrigued about pirate’s moral and social disposition. It seems that in an ever changing world, sea-piracy has shifted from being treasure hunters to monetary claimants. It has been one of the oldest crimes existing, but their ways and means are new and diversifying. How is the maritime industry responding? Are they winning the war on piracy? Or are they being left behind? These are the questions that needs enlightenment as humanity continues to face a familiar and imagined foe, the pirates. It is a conflict among nations against a lawless adversary.

For thousand of years, the sea has always been an anarchic realm. In contrast with land and air, it is barely regulated, even today. Treasure maps, doubloons and jewelry are merely non-existent on the sea cradle. As a result, the pirates developed new methodologies for survival. Thus the birth of modern maritime piracy, in which pirates victimized shipping vessels by hijacking and kidnapping crewmen. They operate using small skiffs with powerful engines and these boats are fast and highly maneuverable. In recent years, pirates started to use mother ships to effectively increase their range. According to Roger Middleton, a professor and an author, the improvements such as the use of GPS navigation system and linkages to international networks increase pirate’s sophistication and development. 

How is the maritime industry responding? 

When a shipping vessel was hijacked and crews are kidnapped, negotiations will commence between the pirates and the government. Decades ago, shipping firms and governments are prepared to pay the sums since the demand back then is relatively small compared to the value of the ship and the lives of the crew. Today, demands from pirates continue to increase. 

In September 2011, a Vietnamese shipping company paid more than $2.6 million to free its crewmen. Liberian flagged MV PANAMA, a vessel hijacked on December 10, 2010 en route from Tanzania to Mozambique, with a crew of 23 from Myanmar, was released after a $7 million ransom paid. Moreover, a $3 million ransom freed a Danish yachting family, ending a six-month ordeal with the Somali pirates. The ransom was apparently paid by the family through private negotiators after the refusal of the Danish government to pay the ransom. For just three occurrences, the ransom paid totaled to $12.6 million. Recent reports suggest that, the amount being paid for ransom is constantly increasing, about $5 million for an average-sized vessel and as the successful hijacking subside this year 2011, the amount being paid as ransom continue to boost. In the past year alone, $80 million has been paid for ransom. 

Are they winning the war on piracy? 

With pirates continue to gain more leverage in terms of ransom payment, imminent eradication of maritime piracy remains a shadow. Various recommendations were proposed including the withholding of ransom payment. However, this has corresponding implications, pirates will devise new tactics and they will instead capture vessels or simply target their cargoes. Non-payment can also result to loss of life that no monetary value can pay. It is therefore considered to make a concerted effort to deflate ransom prices by not paying the demanded amount. If all of this fails, the real solution lies to the political development inside Somalia. The efforts of the international community are considered short-term solutions. 

Is the maritime industry being left behind in addressing sea-piracy? 

It is now clear that behind every mist lies the possibility of a pirate attack. It is now up to the government of nations to gust the mist shadowing every sailor’s course. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

As Governments Fall, Piracy Rises; Piracy of Today and Yesterday

The renaissance era flourished Rome into greatness; it exhibited an unwavering economy and prospering culture. From the earliest days of maritime industry, pirates have been marauding trade routes.  The Roman Empire conducted punitive assault against the pirates to protect its resources and stature. Through era, the empire succeeded, but when the empire succumbed due to political and governmental demise, the coastline of Rome became a pirate’s haven. Ages and ages hence, maritime piracy takes over and dominates crucial shipping routes.

Sea-piracy has been attributed to the plummet of a country’s government. A country with no clear leadership and direction yields to economic instability and decline, which in turn significantly affects its people’s way of life. As unemployment arises, citizens are seeking means whether legal or illegal, righteous or wrongful, to deal with the ends such as: food, shelter, education, and health.  Some people are willing to undertake immorality and threat to human life as they panic and crumble on fear. Thus, when a government falls, its people go with it. They created the causes and together they suffer and endure the effects.

According to Financial Times, the deteriorating domestic security situation in Yemen adds up to the concern of increase maritime-piracy incidents. Sanaa, the capital city of Yemen, has witness tragic and bloody days in streets.  The events were attributed to the unexpected arrival of President. Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been reigning for 33 years and had sought refuge to Saudi Arabia after the June 3 mortar attack by militants on the presidential palace, as the government goes on the verge of civil war. In his absence, he declined to turnover his ruling. Instead, the government was run by his relatives and appointees. His failure to resign prompted more anger and revolt.   With this development, various provinces have fallen out of government’s direction and some into the hands of militants linked to Al Qaeda. Yemen is reportedly drifting apart as this occurrence continues. Its populace is deriving ways to cope up.  Some are considering sea-piracy or even facilitating related operations with the help of Somali pirates.  The suspected collaboration brings about an increase in incidence for almost 40% as reported by the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre.

In Somalia, maritime piracy is ingrained with socio-economic factor such as: dominant poverty, extreme hunger, and civil security problems.  These are attributed to the weak government condition and deficient policy and law-making. Without a coherent structure in terms of financial and human resources, decline of maritime piracy or even its eradication is just a mirage.

In comparison, piracy in Yemen and Somalia basically has the same origin, and that is a poor government framework. Instead of implementing short term measures such as re-routing, increased naval patrol and security enhancement, the root cause should be addressed and solved.

Gone are the days wherein piracy is viewed as a disorganized and mindless crime.  According to the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, pirates of yesterday and today are incomparable.  Pirates during the early times are impulsive and often times had lack of methodology. Today, Pirates live their lives on a knife edge where violence and bloodshed can be a way of life. They have developed a sophisticated intelligence network that enables them to discern vessels owned by large companies and who had paid a large amount of ransom money. Moreover, the intelligence network provides the location and destination of certain vessels.

As history unveiled, the Roman Empire was the largest and perhaps the most powerful in the olden times, but how did ancient Rome achieved its greatness? And why did it eventually collapsed?  The rise and fall of the empire is a vivid model on government management that countries today should learn from. Ultimately, history manuscripts were already written, and fresh anecdotes are desired. The world needs a new template, definitely not about a rise and fall account but rather a stable and thriving narrative.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Piracy, The Worst Dilemma of Maritime Industry

A great deal of misery clouds the very foundation of a captive seaman who embarks in an uncertain course, hoping for a better life. On the other hand, shipping companies deal with the ongoing struggles, hardships and the presence of inevitable anguish towards sea piracy. It cost them dedicated comrades, sheer talent and a substantial amount of investment. In a world wherein recession and bankruptcy lingers in every facet of a company's existence, piracy has no essential role in turning this dreaded situation around.

Pirate’s infestation is localized in a certain domain, but its effect has taken its toil to the international community: the market that caters and dictates the world’s financial climate. The past, piracy exists for the sole purpose of looting, at present, it is now killing innocent lives to obtain money and wealth. While the future, needs a considerable amount of dedication and effective policy-making on behalf of law enforcement agencies to eradicate the business of piracy.

The Suez Canal, an artificial sea waterway in Egypt considered to be a vital economic route, has experienced a 20% decline in revenue for the past years. Ten percent of this is attributed to the economic downturn while the other 10% is related to the avoidance of vessels to cross the region due to piracy. As evident in the year 2010, wherein 1.78% of ships and yachts en route to Suez Canal have been attacked, pursued or captured by pirates. In a global standpoint, piracy has cost the world $12 billion dollars each year. According to the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre, 445 pirate-related scenarios and 49 vessels hijacked off Somalia were reported. In 2011, there were 173 attacks and 23 hijackings reported, gaining predictions that it will surpass last year’s statistics.

If shipping vessels will resort to re-routing, the result is longer voyage and additional costs. 2700 miles will be added to the expedition if a Saudi Arabian tanker set sail for United States via the Cape of Good Hope while a re-routing from Europe to the Far East will add six days to a journey for a liner and up to 15 to 20 days for a cargo ship. This excess duration of travel time reduces a vessel’s annual voyages from six to five, yielding a 17% reduction in its yearly delivery capability. However, a dilemma exist whether it would be economical for shipping vessels to sail the Cape of Good Hope to avoid a potential pirate attack or to take a risk and proceed directly to the pirate-laden Suez Canal. If vessels opted for the former, high cost will be added. An owner of Post-Panamax container ship will increase its cost by $11.2 million while an owner of a Very large Crude Carrier (VLCC) will have an increase in cost by as much as $9.6 million. Moreover, bunker prices significantly increased up to $640 per tones from $482 per tones, yielding a 33% inflation for both container and tanker calculations. On the non-economic stance, pirates widen their territorial occupation that includes major parts of the northern Indian Ocean. This issue makes it practically impossible for oil tankers to avoid pirate-infested area when sailing into the Arabian Gulf to receive cargo from the Middle East crude oil. In contrast, if shipping vessels opted for the latter, they will not incur additional transit cost due to the direct route, but if they were attacked and eventually hijacked en route to the Suez Canal by pirates, likewise, further costs and liabilities will be added.

Piracy clearly affects the international maritime industry to the point that it capitulate deterioration of investments and logistics. The economic cost has been affected by numerous factors: cost of ransom, insurance, re-routing, security equipment, naval forces, prosecutions, and piracy-deterrence organizations. With multitude and diverse factors affecting the industry, it certainly needs the same amount of solutions and elucidation. The answers may result to untoward retribution, resistance and conflict, but it should be done. Ignorance and inhibition yields nothing and benefits no one. The reality today calls for greater decisions, as pirates became wealthier in every charted sea, humanity scramble for justice in every uncharted vision.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Facing the Unknown

Problems, trials and difficulties, we cringe at the thought of going through these instances, but these occurrences are indispensable parts of our lives.  Every one of us, eventually goes through tough times that pushes us to our limits, and test our characters, in the process in the form of problems in finances, relationship issues or emotional scars that are brought to surface again and again. These may happen to bring about self-realization and to mold our characters, but at times, these may be due to our shortcomings and recklessness. Whatever be the cause of the tribulations in our lives, we must be prepared to face the future with boldness.

Recently, a French woman endured what may be the heaviest burden she had to carry in her entire life. Mrs. Evelyne Colombo and her husband Christian Colombo, both who are experienced sailors, ventured on a journey to see the world together.  Little did they know that in the deep waters of the coast off Yemen, one life would be changed drastically forever while the other will come to an abrupt end.

It was September 8 that SY TRIBAL KAT, boarded by Christian and Evelyne Colombo, was attacked by suspected pirates. Although the couple was able to send a distress call to EU NAVFOR (European Nation Naval Force) Flagship FGS BAYERN, the pirates succeeded on boarding the yacht and captured Mrs. Colombo. After being in the hands of the pirates for two days, Evelyne Colombo was rescued by EU NAVFOR with the help of French warship FS SURCOUF and Spanish warship SPS GALICIA. Exchange of fire ensued and the liberators succeeded in retrieving Evelyne Colombo. It was later confirmed that Christian Colombo was killed when the yacht was assailed.

The incident may be viewed by many as a victory due to the Mrs. Colombo’s unharmed release and the capture of the seven pirates. But taking a look in the point of view of the widowed French woman, she may have thought that it would be much better had she been killed with her husband than going through the dread and sorrow of being kidnapped by merciless pirates alone and living a life without her beloved. Who knows what distress she was going through on her repatriation to France alone? When she left with her husband at the start of their trip filled with hope and excitement, did she imagined that she would come back home by herself with fear and grief in her heart?

To be in her shoes, it is hard to imagine how to push through during those times when it seems that your sanity and faith is being tested.  Losing the person that you love more than anyone in this world is hard to take and it takes a long time to heal the emotional wound it brings. What more if the manner of losing the one you love is in a way that will haunt your dreams forever?  Will you survive, stand firm and push through or will you succumb to the pain that will be your downfall?

Some may say think that the couple brought the ordeal upon themselves. Even though the couple are aware of the perils of sailing through the ‘famous’ Gulf of Aden and everyone advised them not to go, they insisted to push through their desire to ‘get out of the box’ and see the wonders of the world. 

Being able to do things does not mean that we should do it. We should realize our limitations and understand that we can’t do it all. Life has its own problems, let us not create more that will add to our burden.  Let us keep our eyes open and our minds sharp and working so that we can navigate away from the quicksand of life. In times that we fall, let us look for the positive things that we can pick out and learn from the negative situation. Focus on the good things, the things that you still have instead of focusing on the things you lost.  

Living life is like crossing a bridge with a thick fog cutting the visibility of your course, are you brave enough to face the unknown?