Monday, March 28, 2005

Why it's hard to fight pirates in the Malacca Strait

Shipping firms go it alone as antipiracy enforcement flounders:
One company owner said: 'It has become more frequent that fishermen are robbed, crew members are kidnapped and companies pay ransom. Malacca has become more dangerous.'

Noel Choong, regional director of the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center, said no arrest of pirates have been made for several years in the northern Strait of Malacca, where the Idaten was attacked.

Under such circumstances, shipping companies distrust police.

A local source close to the maritime affairs said: 'The naval police of coastal countries are only pretending they're patrolling the Strait of Malacca. Pirates have rocket-propelled grenades. The police are afraid of counterattacks, so they never arrest them.'

The head of a company whose boats frequently pass through the strait said: 'If police were able to arrive immediately at the scene of an attack, pirates would try to complete their job as soon as possible - which may end up in the deaths or injury of crew members.'

'Police believe companies will negotiate with pirates if crew members are kidnapped. Companies, police and pirates are equally balanced, unfortunately,' he added.

Some major shipping companies have signed up for kidnap and ransom insurance policies, according to a Japanese shipping company official. The premium is high, but it reduces the damage to companies if their boats are attacked...

...Many pirate groups are believed to be based in northern Sumatra, Indonesia. Choong said, 'Antipiracy measures will not be effective unless Indonesia gets really committed.'

The problem is that the Indonesian police, which patrol a wide area of water, are underequipped to fight piracy.

A senior Malaysian naval police official said, 'It's really difficult to find a pirate boat out of 60,000 ships that pass the area every year.'

The Idaten attack exposed inefficient investigation by the Malaysian police. The naval police in Penang, where the boat anchored, questioned crew members at first, but the questioning authority was later handed over to police in Lumut, three hours away from Penang by car, which covers the area of the attack. The police left the boat used by the pirates exposed to the rain, apparently without conducting scientific investigation such as taking fingerprints...
No arrests in several years? Amazing. Meanwhile, the insurance carriers and small companies and individual boat owners pay the price. Out gunned, unmotivated and inefficient. Not an impressive resume'.

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