Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Pirates attack Russian tanker 30 miles off Gujarat coast?

Feb 19 The Indian security apparatus is believed to be on high alert after a Sovcomflot-owned tanker was attacked by pirates just 30 miles from the country’s coastline three days ago. Armed guards on a ship believed to be the Liberian flagged “NS Century”, a 105,800 DWT crude oil tanker, fired warning shots at three skiffs that approached the vessel at high speed, the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy reporting centre said.

The tanker was about 30 miles off the Porbandar (Gujarat) coast when, according to the IMB, “Three skiffs were noticed at a distance of 6.3 nm ahead of a tanker underway. A suspected mother vessel without AIS signal was also noticed via radar around 17nm ahead. The skiffs increased speed and headed towards the tanker. One of the skiffs increased its speed to around 20knots.There were 6-8 persons in each skiff. Master commenced evasive manoeuvres, alerted all crewmembers. The skiffs closed to around three cables and the armed security team onboard fired warning shots. The skiffs stopped and were seen moving towards the mother vessel. Small arms were sighted in the skiffs but no ladders were observed”.

Apparently no shots were fired at the tanker; however, analysts believe that Somali pirates off a mother ship believed to be in the area were responsible for the attack. The fact that the attack was alarmingly close to the country’s sensitive Gujarat coastline almost next door to Pakistan will undoubtedly give the Indian authorities many sleepless nights. Equally worrisome is the fact that ships had been advised to use the corridor off Gujarat for safety ever since the recent spate of attacks in the northern Arabian Sea. With piracy having spread cancerously right across the Arabian Sea, the position of the attack (20º 53.2′ N, 069º 39.1′ E) will raise concerns in the industry that the Indian coastline is not safe anymore.

One legal expert says that, should the pirate attacks reach approximately twelve miles from the coast, “we will no longer be talking about piracy in the international law sense (as defined in Article 101 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea). Instead the offense would be ‘armed robbery against ships’ and a matter solely for the Indian legal system”.

Reports indicate that the Indian coast guard is investigating the incident, including the possibility that Indian fishermen strayed too close to the crude oil tanker and were mistakenly taken for pirates. However, if this was indeed a pirate attack as reported by the IMB, the time may have come when armed guards could be commonplace on ships in an area bounded by the Southern Red Sea, the Straits of Hormuz, Sri Lanka and the coast of South Africa till Durban, we think.

No comments:

Post a Comment