Piracy off Somalian coast, major threat to shipping industry: speakers

The government proposes to issue a notification imposing restrictions on ships that are over 25 years old in order to prevent marine accidents and consequent implications for the marine environment.

Announcing this at an international seminar on ‘Towards sustainable shipping,' organised by the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers (ICS) here on Friday, Union Minister of Shipping G.K. Vasan said that based on experience in handling marine accidents in the recent past, it was found that the age of ships played a critical role.

The government had already put in place a legal framework to handle shipping accidents by acceding to two international conventions — the Wreck Removal Convention and the Protocol to the Convention on Limited Liability for Maritime Claims. “We will also be acceding to the Convention of Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage and the Convention for the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling System on Ships soon.”

He was confident that these initiatives would provide a strong legal framework to claim compensation in case of oil spills, ship wrecks and other accidents.

Admitting that shipping as an industry was facing many challenges now, he said one of the main and most serious threats was in the form piracy off the coast of Somalia.

A large area of the Arabian Sea had been affected by this threat thereby pushing up the cost of freight carried through this critical shipping corridor.

The Minister said that the Indian Navy had played a key role in protecting convoys of ships, both Indian and foreign.The government had also issued guidelines on providing armed guards on board merchant ships.

Referring to safety at ports, he said the highest priority was accorded by the Indian government to safety. The Minister expressed concern over “commercial sustainability” of shipping consequent on the downturn in various parts of the world that had brought in distortions in global trade scenario. “We need to realign the shipping capacities in line with the trade flows,” he counselled.

Alan Marsh, President, ICS, UK, wondered why governments were not doing much with regard to piracy despite this bringing about a “most damning situation.” Now shippers had to bear the brunt, he lamented.

K.G. Ramakrishnan, Chairman of the Madras Branch of the ICS, said piracy was derailing the entire shipping industry and pleaded that it should be eliminated. Referring to the warming of glaciers, he said the shipping industry should also initiate efforts to reduce ‘carbon footprint.'