The ITF says that merchant ships should not transit Somali piracy affected waters except in exceptional circumstances. In a strongly worded statement, the organisation also asked Flag States and shipowners to take immediate action to end piracy. “Save in exceptional circumstances (clarified later as having sufficient naval escort protection or protection on board), ships should not transit the (affected) area. The risk of attack is now so great that putting seafarers in harm’s way amounts to a breach of the shipowner’s duty of care,” the statement said.
ITF Maritime Coordinator Steve Cotton explained: “There are countries actively fighting piracy and there are owners training and supporting their crews to resist it. Then there are others who are shirking responsibility and as good as accepting its steadily growing menace, which has now brought us to the point where one of the world’s great trading routes is now almost too dangerous to pass through. Today’s statement reflects the frustration of all those who work at sea at the dire situation we’ve reached. It calls into question the very legality of continuing to send ships through much of the Indian Ocean. It is therefore imperative that not only must protective escorts be used but that flag states immediately decide on the protective measures that they must recommend for the ships that are flying their flag and that those ships’ operators comply with them.”
Cotton also spoke scathingly on what he said was an open secret in shipping, "that many of the world’s largest ship registers have provided not one vessel to patrol an ocean that can only be made safe by an increase in the number of warships needed to aggressively patrol and police it. I am not aware of a single flag of convenience country that is acting in this way to protect the ships that are supposedly their responsibility.”
The ITF statement said that seafarers should not be penalised for refusing to remain on vessels transiting through piracy high risk areas, adding that they had the right to refuse to put themselves in harms way and be relieved prior to such a transit. "The ITF calls on flag States and shipowners to uphold seafarers’ rights in this regard," the statement said. On a separate note, the Federation restated its opinion that, owing to liability and such issues, armed seafarers aboard merchant ships was a bad idea.
Meanwhile, a Chief Officer has been killed in an attack off Benin as pirates boarded on the Liberian tanker 'Cancale Star'. The ship was carrying 89,000 cubic metres of cargo and was just eighteen miles off the West African coast of Benin when seven pirates seized it. Although the 24 man crew captured one Nigerian pirate, media reports later confirmed by the shipowners Chemikalien Seetransport said that the Chief Officer has been killed during the attack. He was a Lithuanian national. Other crew include Russians, Ukrainians and Filipinos. Chemikalien also said that some of the crew have suffered injuries during the attack.
The tanker's Latvian Captain, Jaroslavs Semenovics, said around six or seven pirates had approached the tanker in a speedboat, boarded and marched a sailor to the Master's cabin at gunpoint. They forced the Master to open the safe and made off with an undisclosed amount of ship's cash. Analysts say that although pirate attacks off the West Coast of Africa are less frequent than those off the East Coast, they tend to be more violent and pose a higher risk to a ship's crew. Benin based journalist Esther Tola told the BBC that the pirates were thought to be from Nigeria.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) says piracy in the waters of West Africa is on the rise, with 100 such incidents recorded last year. Clearly, the ITF's upping the ante could not have come at a more opportune time, Somalia or not.