will spur hijackings
SHIPPING companies that quietly pay
pirates’ ransoms to recover crew and cargo are only spurring more
hijackings, according to Nicolas Saverys, chief executive of leading
Belgian shipping company Exmar.
”As long as democracy will give in
on this kind of blackmail, we’ll never have a solution,” he said,
The company ships 40% of the
world’s seaborne ammonia and 10% of its liquefied petroleum gas.
Although they are loath to declare
it, shipping firms - via their insurance companies - have paid
between US$35mil and US$40mil in ransoms to pirates so far this
year, according to an estimate by Roger Middleton, a Somalia expert
at London’s Chatham House think-tank.
Saverys did not specify whether
Exmar buys insurance to cover hijackings, but said he understood why
many firms did. However deterrents, not payouts, are the only real
solution, he said.
Tankers like Exmar’s, laden with
valuable petrochemicals, are the most attractive to the cash-hungry
Somali pirates operating in the treacherous Gulf of Aden.
The gulf, on the route between
Europe and Asia, is one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors,
but has been plagued by a rash of armed buccaneers this year.
While Exmar’s insurance premiums
have yet to rise exceptionally as a result of the crime wave, the
firm lost around US$100,000 because one of its vessels, meant to
pass through the Gulf of Aden, was delayed for three days while
awaiting a protective Nato-organised naval convoy, Saverys said.
”If the international community
would act much more unanimously and much more strongly against these
acts of piracy, they would disappear,” Saverys said.
The Belgian native, whose family
has been in the maritime industry since 1828, said that instead of
insurance payouts, he would prefer a return to the practices of past
centuries, when pirates were hunted.
”I’m not saying we should do it in
that way of course; the guy should receive a fair trial, but if he
has participated in the act of piracy, he should be punished,”
“It is for each country to make its
own decisions” regarding responses to piracy, said Lee Adamson, a
spokesman for the United Nations’ International Maritime
The IMO estimated that there have
been more than 120 acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of
Somalia so far this year.
At least 14 ships and 243 crew are
still under pirate control, including the Saudi supertanker Sirius
Star, the biggest tanker ever hijacked, which held as much as two
million barrels of oil worth US$100mil. — Reuters