The trade union Nautilus International has called for assurances from the UK government that the UK will remain in the European Union Naval Force (EUNavfor) counter-piracy operation following an attack on a British-registered chemical tanker off Somalia in November.
The union wrote to foreign secretary Boris Johnson to call for the UK to remain a part of the EUNavfor’s operation as its commander, Major General Rob Magowan, warned of the need for continued vigilance at sea.
The 51,747 dwt CPO Korea was targeted by pirates in a high-speed skiff, some 330 nautical miles off the east coast of Somalia on October 22, the first such incident in more than two years.
“This attack shows that pirates still have the intent to attack ships for ransom and cause misery to seafarers and their families. It is imperative that the international community remains vigilant. The EU Naval Force is working with counterpiracy partners to coordinate efforts to ensure pirates do not once again terrorise the waters off the Somali coast,” Major General Robert Andrew Magowan said.
“The incident had not come as a surprise,” according to Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson, and showed the need for vigilance — despite a new report from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) showing piracy and armed attacks on merchant ships around the world had fallen to a 20-year low.
“We have been very pleased to see the lack of pirate activity in the area — and feel that this is in no small part due to the success of EUNavfor’s Operation Atalanta. However, it has been very clear that there is no room for complacency, especially as the political situation ashore in Somalia can best be described as fragile,” Dickinson said.
The IMB report said the first nine months of 2016 witnessed a total of 141 incidents, down by 25% from the same time last year, and down 60% from the same period five years ago.
However, the IMB also warned the industry against dropping security levels. It said kidnapping and hostage taking remains a major risk off the coasts of West Africa and SE Asia, pointing out that pirates armed with guns or knives took 110 seafarers hostage in the first nine months of 2016, and kidnapped 49 crew for ransom.