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This one is free, but it can happen again

delhi Updated: Nov 17, 2008 01:14 IST
Amit Baruah
Amit Baruah
Hindustan Times
MT Stolt Valor

Just around the time the MT Stolt Valor was being freed by Somali pirates, another Japanese vessel was hijacked off the Somalian coast. For us as a country, there’s no cause for immediate concern: no Indians were on board.

Yes, there’s relief that the Indians on board the Stolt Valor, which was captured by pirates on September 15, are now free and on their way home. But continued instability in Somalia means that another Indian vessel can be hijacked again.

In the past, Indian officials have said that the Japanese owners of the Stolt Valor have been negotiating with the pirates. Presumably, the owners have paid the money to the pirates.

An Indian Navy ship was sent to the area, but the fact remains that only a ransom payment has led to the release of the Stolt Valor. Much of the increase in global piracy can be attributed to the increasingly dangerous Gulf of Aden and east coast of Somalia, the International Maritime Bureau reported recently.

It ranks as the number one piracy danger zone with 63 incidents reported this year, accounting for almost a third of the overall reported attacks, IMB said. “Pirates in the Gulf of Aden are growing increasingly brazen, attacking vessels, including tanker and large bulk carriers, with impunity. This major international seaway requires immediate increased protection and naval intervention,” Captain Pottengal Mukundan, IMB director, wrote wrote on the Bureau’s website.

“The war in the Gulf of Aden waters is merely a reflection of the war onshore,” Michael Shank wrote to the Financial Times, pointing out that internecine warfare in Somalia had killed 10,000 civilians and displaced one million in the past two years alone.

“The underpinnings of Somali piracy are Somalia’s poverty and political instability. The key, then, to solving the seas is to promote a humanitarian agenda on land while ensuring good governance within Somalia’s transitional federal government,” Shank, communications director at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, United States, argued.

Good advice, which might make the Somalian coast safe for seafarers again. Is the international community listening?