Hamburg Despatches #2

Paul Gibbins reports on the 2nd day of the Hanson Wade Combating Piracy gathering in Hamburg. Of particular note amongst the issues raised yesterday was the challenge of the current militarization towards a solution to piracy.

Hamburg Conference listens how ship owner and security provider minimize risk to Seafarers

Day 2 at the Hanson Wade 11th Combating Piracy gathering in Hamburg heard from both shipowner and security provider talk about how they minimize risk to the seafarer through the armed deterrent. Roland Hoeger, MD of Komrowski Shipping, said “We as ship owners meanwhile consider our own risk and that of the seafarers – certainly statistically – reduced to a minimum by protecting our vessels with Armed Guards”.

Whilst the readers of Maritime Security Review readily understand, the armed deterrent comes at a price and Hoeger estimated the cost of the armed deterrent on board his vessels at approximately $60,000 for transits through the HRA. Whilst ‘pro’ PMSC’s, he feels that thorough vetting of security providers as vital, to the extent of scrutinizing the CV’s of all the security companies operatives.

As the owner of the MV Taipan, hijacked and liberated by Dutch Marines, Hoeger is familiar with the issue of piracy. Indeed he expressed incredulity that those arrested on the Taipan are still on trial in Germany, 2 years after their arrest.

Another session of note today was from Salama Fikira, a security company based in Kenya. Salama’s CEO, Conrad Thorpe, spoke of the situation on the ground and identified some prevalent issues. An increase in (piracy) violence, the use of amphibious raids and the increased range of pirates as far as Fujairah all indicated how the success at sea is causing effects elsewhere. Overall Thorpe felt that there was a definite swing in favour of the armed deterrent, that armed is now acceptable. He was praiseworthy of the shipping community in noting widespread use of BMP4, marking increased integration across a number of sectors in the fight against piracy.

Of particular note raised today was the challenge of the current militarization towards a solution to piracy, such as the interdiction of suspected pirate skiffs onshore, and Thorpe posed the question to conference of how to ‘de’-militarize the Indian Ocean? After all the military presence was generally understood to be a law enforcement presence as opposed to a Navy on a war fighting role proactively engaging pirates. Without doubt the state navies from many nations have become more robust in their operations, but pirates are civilians, not military.

The conference closed with another impassioned plea by Kuba Szymanski, the Secretary General of Intermanager highlighting the plight of seafarers, particularly those still captive on and offshore Somalia. Many thanks to all at Hanson Wade for pulling together an eclectic mix of speakers; now looking forward to the London Conference in October.

By Paul Gibbins

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