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Piracy at Sea


Newspapers in Pakistan and the world are giving extensive coverage to piracy off the coast of Somalia. I had learned about this act when I had picked up a book at a stall off Regal Chowk in 1958 for only one rupee. "The history of piracy - 1932", written by Phillip Goose, who penned the story of bravery and assaults by sea robbers in the medieval age which were termed as coastal piracy.

However Atlantic open sea daring piracy in 18th century and North African and Chinese piracy in the 19th century, also the contemporary piracy in South Asian seas, crossed all limits. Indonesia and the Strait of Malacca have claimed 40% of world-wide pirate attacks in 2004. Sea piracy has tripled in the last 10 years, but Malacca Strait, according to International Maritime Bureau, is most dangerous, with 200 to 600 ships crossing daily to the Far East.

621 miles of Malacca Strait lies between Malaysia and Sumatra (Indonesia) and it narrows down to a width of only 1.5 miles near southern entrance to Port of Singapore. I was personally confronted with pirate attack whilst traversing Malacca Strait near Singapore. The pirates robbed the entire crew of cash and valuables at night, by climbing on a moving ship by putting a rope with hook and they were equipped with speedboat and latest weaponry. The best option is to surrender to avoid loss of life. I recall robberies at Chittagong and Calcutta too, but never heard of hijacking the ship or taking crew as hostage, the unprecedented acts off the Coast of Somalia.

International Maritime Organisation rightly believes that half of the attacks go unreported by shipowners due to rise in insurance premium, so was the case with my ship in 70's. With unprecedented latest seizure of Saudi tanker, Hong King and Korean ships, Somalia has made headlines. Attacks have tripled since 2005 off Somalia coast and 32 accidents were reported only last year. The busy maritime waterway between Somalia and Yemen is a major trade route traversed by about 20,000 ships per year traversing to and from Suez Canal. Somalian pirates have kidnapped over 100 crew members of different nationalities, including Pakistanis and Indians.

It is intriguing to note that release of crew and ships are negotiated mainly by London Lawyers paying 1m to 2m USD and in case of Saudi tanker 25m USD. The estimated yearly loss due to piracy is about 13/16 billion USD, as io learnt at IMO in 2005.

The increase in incidents off Somali Coast prompted the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) to adopt a resolution in the IMO assembly 2005 A 979 (24) to bring the matter to the attention of UN Security Council. I voted on behalf of Pakistan in its favour. However, I also qualified my support by stating that factory ships and deep-sea trawlers of Taiwan and Russia may not exploit the sea resources of Somalian economic zone in accordance with UNCOLAS. The UN Security Council acted by passing resolution 1816(2008) by allowing navies to enter the territorial waters of Somalia to check armed robbery and piracy at sea. This mandate expires in December, 2008.

The Indians immediately seized the opportunity of UN resolution by deploying 4 TALWAR Class destroyers to patrol entrance from Gulf of Oman to Gulf of Aden and Indian Navy claims to have destroyed a pirate ship about 528km south west of Salalah Port, by shelling from INS TABAR. Indian plea of deployment is that their merchant marine ships are suffering a loss of 450,000 USD per month due to delays and are not meeting deadlines, a food for thought for Pakistan Navy too as now not only US and Russian warships, but Indians too are controlling the main sea routes.

The reason of increased piracy is political conflict in Somalia and also Taiwan Trawlers/Factory ships are lifting big fish catch depriving poor Somalian fisherman, who have now become pirates. I am afraid if we do not stop exploitation of our economic zone by deep-sea trawlers, our poverty stricken fishermen may too resort to robbery at sea, thus no licences be issued to Taiwan and Korean trawler owners.

All conflicts arise from economic exploitation and I quote an incidence. When prisoners were brought before Napoleon, their attitude was humiliating towards the King. They said we Russians are far better than you. You fight for wealth and we fight for honour. Napoleon made history by replying, "everyone fights for what he does not have".

The maritime safety committee of IMO is meeting from 26th November to 6th December, 2008 in London where a new resolution on piracy will come up along with safety measures to post sea marshals, or electrification of ships railing and bulwarks and hosing the anchor housing etc also using shiploc, a technological device which uses a satellite tracking system to monitor the ships position to alert, authorities when a ship is under attack. UAVS can be used to monitor large areas around ships. Ship Masters be provided with non-lethal weapons, such as stun grenades, pepper spray and slippery foam dispenser. Ships should have flood lights when traversing pirate zones.


Copyright Business Recorder, 2008




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Dear Members
kindly note that submission of Nomination form has been extended till 9 May 2015, due to annual dinner event. Ensure that the Nomination form should reach MMSP office on or 9 May 2015.

Capt. Khawaja Wasiuddin Siddiqi Dupty Election Commissioner


To honour
Chief Patron of MMSP and Chief of Naval Staff Who has kindly consented to be the Chief Guest on this Occasion at Convention Hall, Pakistan Maritime Museum Near Karsaz, Karachi,
on Friday, the 24 April 2015

at 2000 hrs

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If, we go into time Tunnel, the era from 2003-2007, efforts were made to convert Pakistan Marine Academy to Pakistan Maritime University, so that different faculties of Maritime education may be established locally.


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Monthly Meeting :


May 14, 2015

Executive Committee Meeting of Master Mariner Society of Pakistan will be held at 17.30 Hrs. at Room No 18, Old Ralli Brothers Building, Talpur Road, Karachi.

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