Piracy, armed robbery and other violent criminal acts at sea

Piracy, armed robbery and other violent criminal acts at sea

Overview

BIMCO's position on "piracy, armed robbery and other violent criminal acts at sea " has been approved by the BIMCO Board of Directors.

Background

The framework for the repression of piracy under international law is mainly set out in the  UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which came into force in 1994. States have an obligation to cooperate in the repression of piracy to the fullest possible extent. In international waters (i.e. outside the territorial waters) all states have universal jurisdiction (ie all states can act)to seize pirate ships, or a ship taken by piracy and under the control of pirates, and arrest the persons on board. Thus, these rights also apply in a country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Armed robbery can occur in internal waters and within the limit of the territorial sea (up to 12 nautical miles from the base line) of a coastal state and in such cases the primary responsibility for enforcement normally falls on the coastal state.

All states have a shared responsibility to ensure the global supply chain is protected on the high seas and in territorial waters. Effective  implementation of UNCLOS in national law is thus key to reduce armed robbery, acts of piracy or other violent acts at sea.

BIMCO’s strategic aim is to see the eradication of piracy and armed robbery at sea. Only then will seafarers’ safety  and freedom of navigation be assured, without the need for self-protection measures and additional insurance premiums. 

BIMCO’s position

  • Lack of uniform implementation and effective enforcement by coastal states of their responsibilities according to UNCLOS undermines the effect of various initiatives aimed at combatting piracy and armed robbery at sea. In high risk regions, coastal states are encouraged to strengthen  multilateral cooperation to maximise counter-piracy impact, e.g. by means of external naval forces working effectively in parallel with regional state navies.
  • The relationship and strong cooperation between navies, maritime law enforcement agencies and the shipping industry is vital to deter and defeat piracy globally. 
  • BIMCO actively promotes a comprehensive approach to combating Nigerian based piracy in the Gulf of Guinea including the assistance of other navies.
  • The involvement of law enforcement agencies or officials (including recently retired senior officials) in commercial protection business can lead to a conflict of interests and should thus be avoided.
  • Other conflicts of interest may arise if disproportionate payments are required by authorities in connection with the regulation of commercial protection business.
  • According to UNCLOS, counter piracy is a government’s responsibility. Requests to the shipping industry to make financial contributions to governments for counter-piracy initiatives are not supported. 
  • Paying ransom for release of crew and ship is the right of owners, and their responsibility to protect seafarers should not be hindered.
  • The shipping industry should designate piracy High Risk Areas (HRA),  when the piracy threat to seafarers is high enough to warrant it. The piracy threat is the combination of pirates’ opportunity, capability and intent to attack shipping.
  • When it makes sense from a law enforcement resource perspective, BIMCO supports the establishment of safe anchorage areas by coastal states. To avoid such an area becoming a lucrative source of income and thereby a disincentive to effective law enforcement by the coastal state, the use of such areas should ideally be free of charge, and as a minimum any charges should be proportionate.
  • BIMCO supports the use of private maritime security companies (PMSCs) when required. PMSCs should be ISO28007 certified and operate legitimately, as a supplement to other self-defence measures and the efforts by the naval forces. 
  • BIMCO supports the idea of a single set of standard definitions for security incident classification and reporting.

 

Rasmus Nord Jorgensen
in Copenhagen, DK

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