Crime of Piracy, and how Maritime Forces Respond to it

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Crime of Piracy, and how Maritime Forces Respond to it Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in news?
  • Maritime crime of piracy
  • Role of maritime forces in anti-piracy response
  • Challenges in handling captive pirates
  • Combating piracy needs a long-term solution
  • News Summary: The crime of piracy, and how maritime forces respond to it
  • Increase in the incidents of piracy
  • Role of Indian Navy

Why in news?

  • The Indian Navy foiled a piracy attempt on an Iranian-flagged fishing vessel, FV Omaril, off the east coast of Somalia on February 2.

Maritime Crime of Piracy

  • About
    • As per the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) from 1982, maritime piracy is when people on a private boat or ship commit crimes like kidnapping, violence, or robbery for personal gain.
    • In other words, the term ‘piracy’ is used to describe a range of crimes from petty theft from ships at sea or anchorage to armed robbery and hijacking of a ship for ransom.
  • Cause of concern
    • It causes panic in maritime business and leads to the establishment of high-risk areas, and a resultant increase in maritime insurance premiums.
    • It also affects the safety of ships and seafarers, and disrupts global supply chains.

Role of Maritime Forces in Anti-Piracy Response

  • They maintain a visible presence that aims to deter pirates from carrying out attacks.
  • Their ships and aircraft undertake surveillance of the high-risk area, identify suspect vessels, and report them for further investigation.
    • This is supported by information fusion centres ashore.
  • They warn passing ships about suspect vessels and announce escort schedules.
    • This enables merchant ships transiting the high-risk area to join convoys between designated points.
  • They proactively or reactively intervene to manage a developing situation, foil a piracy attempt, or rescue a hijacked vessel.

Challenges in handling captive pirates

  • National laws are often inadequate to deal with apprehended pirates, and there is no effective international legal mechanism for their trial and disposal.
  • The many nationalities, countries, maritime zones, flag states, etc. involved raise complex jurisdictional issues.
  • Hence, captured pirates are usually disarmed, and their boats are drained of fuel and set adrift so that they are unable to undertake further attacks.
    • However, they often find their way back ashore to return to piracy another day.

Combating piracy needs a long-term solution

  • A long-term solution to the problem of piracy lies in rooting out misgovernance and unemployment in nations ashore, which feed maritime criminal activities.
  • Till that happens, piracy will recur periodically and maritime forces will have to work to ensure mercantile peace.

News Summary: The crime of piracy, and how maritime forces respond to it

Increase in the incidents of piracy

  • About
    • In recent years, waters off the west coast of Africa, Gulf of Aden, Horn of Africa, Bangladesh, and the Strait of Malacca have seen attacks by pirates.
    • Over the past few weeks, there has been a sudden increase in piracy incidents in the Northern Indian Ocean region and the Western Arabian Sea.
  • Reasons
    • These sea areas are poorly policed. The coastal countries have weak maritime forces, or none at all.
    • These areas normally have concentrations of shipping traffic.
      • They might be places where ships have to slow down because of the geography (choke points) or places where ships wait before going into ports.
    • Poor governance or turmoil on land close to these areas leads to unemployment, poverty and consequently, crime.
    • These areas are mostly international waters that fall within the maritime jurisdiction of several countries.
    • This leads to legal complexities and difficulties in coordination.
  • Current geopolitical reasons behind the recent increase in piracy incidents
    • This sudden increase in piracy incidents may be attributed to the heightened volatility resulting from the Israel-Hamas conflict.
    • Additionally, the support provided by Houthi rebels in Yemen to the Palestinians could be contributing to this alarming trend.

Role of Indian Navy

  • Background
    • The Indian Navy has been among the most proactive forces deployed in the troubled area off the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden.
    • Its anti-piracy patrol that started in 2008 continues to this day.
      • Since 2008, Indian Navy has deployed units in Gulf of Aden and East Coast of Africa towards antipiracy patrols.
  • Achievements
    • A total of 3,440 ships and over 25,000 seafarers have been safely escorted.
    • Nil piracy incidents have been reported in Palk Strait.
    • The boundaries of the high-risk area that covered much of the Arabian Sea during the height of Somali piracy (2009-12) were pushed back westward primarily due to the efforts of the Indian Navy.
      • The High Risk Area reflects the area where the threat from piracy exists.
  • Recent achievements
    • The rescue of a Sri Lankan fishing trawler, Lorenzo Putha, in a coordinated action with the Sri Lankan and Seychelles navies on January 29, and
    • The rescue of two Iranian flagged boats with Iranian and Pakistani crew by the Offshore Patrol Vessel INS Sumitra.

Q1) What is Strait of Malacca?

The Strait of Malacca is a 500-mile-long stretch of water that connects the Andaman Sea with the Singapore Strait and the South China Sea. It's located between the Indonesian island of Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula.

Q2) What is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)?

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is an international agreement that establishes a legal framework for all marine and maritime activities. It was adopted in 1982 and as of May 2023, 168 countries and the European Union are parties.

Source: Expert Explains: The crime of piracy, and how maritime forces respond to it | PIB | The Hindu