Security Response Slammed

Mediterranean Shipping Co has hit out at naval forces for failing to come to the assistance of one of its ships that was seized by pirates late last week despite taking evasive action and making urgent calls for help that went unheeded.

Gianluigi Aponte’s MSC has described the situation as unacceptable and is calling for a much more aggressive approach from both local law enforcement authorities and the international community when ships come under attack.

The 1,700 teu MSC Panama , which has been on charter to MSC since April 2008, was hijacked some 80 nautical miles east of the Tanzanian/Mozambique border.

“Clearly our main concern is for the 25 crew and for their safety. However we are also concerned about the vessel, its cargo and containers,” MSC said in a statement to Lloyd’s List.

“We cannot accept that international trade is disrupted in this way and call for a more vigorous and proportionate response. ”

A rocket-propelled grenade was used in the attack, according to EU Navfor which said the latest incident was a further example of the “constantly expanding area of pirate activity”.

The crew of the 21-year-old ship, which is managed by Florida-based Ship Management Services, are all from Burma. MSC has not yet been able to obtain any information about their plight.

The Geneva company, which operates the world’s second largest containership fleet, said that the Tanzanian authorities failed to respond to the vessel’s emergency call. Furthermore, EU Navfor observed the attack, with helicopters hovering overhead, but did not intervene.

In September, MSC, Maersk Line and CMA CGM announced that they planned to co-operate in their fight against piracy by exchanging information on safety measures and procedures, as well as jointly putting pressure on the authorities to do more to tackle the problem.

At the time, MSC went one step further and said it would consider placing armed guards on its containerships unless greater efforts were taken by naval forces to protect vessels and their crews from piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

While most owners and operators remain reluctant to have guns on their ships, MSC said it was reviewing the situation after several piracy incidents involving its own vessels.The company would not reveal what security arrangements it currently has in place.

Over the past couple of years, two of its containerships and one MSC cruiseship have come under direct attack, although not boarded, while there have been numerous chases.

MSC makes the point that it continues to serve all ports in the region, apart from Mogadishu, despite the danger.

MSC Panama was heading from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Beira in Mozambique at the time of Friday’s hijack when five pirates boarded the ship.

The world’s three most powerful container lines said in their joint communique that they hoped their combined voice would send out a clear message that more needs to be done to safeguard commercial shipping lanes.

The trio also called for other steps to be taken, including the creation of an effective regional coast guard and possible transit corridors to East Africa.

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