Mumbai, Sept. 30 The Directorate General of Shipping of the Indian Ministry of Shipping has issued an advisory to ships transiting the Gulf of Aden and the pirate infected waters off Somalia. The Director General of Shipping advisory “strongly advises all Indian flag ships and ships carrying Indian seafarers to utilise the escort services being provided by the Indian naval ships in the Gulf of Aden to the maximum extent. In the event such merchant vessels are unable to conform to the Indian warships schedule for any reason, they are advised to take the escort schedules of warships of other countries that carry out escort throughout the length of the IRTC.”
The present circular (Merchant Shipping Notice No 33 of 2009) is available on the DGS website and refers to an earlier stronger advisory issued last week, that had asked “all Indian ships and ships with Indian crewmembers not to transit the piracy affected areas in the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters without Indian Naval Escort.” However, “having received representations from INSA, FOSMA and MASSA” in connection with that earlier advisory, the DGS has reviewed the matter before issuing the latest circular.
In the last week or so there have been massive concerns in shipping circles following media reports that NATO has warned the Indian government of the probability that Indian ships and seafarers may be targeted by Al Qaeda linked organisations off Somalia. What is even more alarming is that these threats appear to be particular; NATO has reportedly said that there is specific intelligence available with them to suggest that pro Al Qaida elements are plotting to target Indian ships and sailors in the next few weeks. “Certainly Al Qaeda links and has probably connections with the Al Shabaab which is vying for power in the South around Mogadishu," a senior official says.
What is not so widely publicised is that Earlier, a NATO warship rescued fourteen Indian sailors recently after they were freed by pirates who, they say, had beaten them during 10 days of captivity. Analysts say that numerous such hijacks remain unreported even today. Interestingly traders in Dubai's dhow wharf told Khaleej Times how pirates were increasingly being seen up to the Strait of Hormuz, near the UAE. Officially, just one such record exists. However, as piracy expert Roger Middleton says, "A dhow captain who speaks little English may not know how to report a pirate attack to the IMO or NATO," he said. "There may be many more cases occurring which we simply don't know about."
For many months, we at Marex have often highlighted the fact that organisations like Al Shabaab within Somalia are linked to Al Qaeda; a recent report in this publication also detailed Pakistani involvement, including the fact that trained Pakistani nationals had been caught by a Russian warship with arms aboard a hijacked ship sometime ago. With elements within Pakistan and Yemen involved, and with persistent reports of shadowy players from Europe and the UAE coordinating pirate activities, we are relieved that these warnings are being taken seriously.