Logistics

Indian ship-owners want armed guards on ships

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on March 15, 2011 Published on March 04, 2011

pirates   -  PTI

Upping the ante against incidents of piracy in high seas, Indian ship-owners have sought the Government's permission to have armed guards on ships as a defensive mechanism.

Over the last few years, incidents of piracy emanating from Somalia have emerged as a headache for ships that frequent the sea routes off Gulf of Aden. This has led to different navies escorting merchant ships in sensitive routes. Till June 2010, the Indian Navy had escorted 1,037 ships, including 134 Indian flagged ships and 903 foreign flagged ships, across the pirate infested waters of the Gulf of Aden. Indian National Shipowners' Association's (INSA) Chief Executive Officer, Mr Anil Devli, told Business Line that the Indian shipowners have been apprised of the best practices adopted by other shipowners. But, we have requested the Government to allow us to have armed guards on board – preferably from the Navy – to protect our ships. Lots of other countries, including Singapore, have allowed having armed guards in merchant ships,” Mr Devli said.

DIPLOMATIC MEANS

Meanwhile, the Indian Government will use “only diplomatic channels” to secure the release of six Indian sailors held hostage by the Somalian pirates. The Shipping Minister, Mr G.K. Vasan, today said that efforts are on to expedite the safe release of Indian hostages in the hands of pirates.

“The owner of the ship (MV Suez) is an Egyptian. The hostages are from four nationalities, including from India, Egypt, Pakistan and Sri Lanka,” he said.

Discreet step

“Sixty-four Indians have been held hostage in 2010 and 2011. Today, I met the Shipping Ministry officials, who have taken up the issue with Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) officials. I have met the family members of sailors, and I share their concerns,” Mr Vasan adding that the Government will also “use only diplomatic channels”.

“Any step taken by the Government has to be discreet and cannot be discussed in public domain,” Mr Vasan added, requesting the media to be restrained in the coverage. “In the last three years, we have been able to handle the release of 150 people because of the continuous efforts of the Shipping Ministry through the MEA,” he said.

“We are confident that issue won't precipitate. The backchannel processes can't be discussed in open,” Mr S.B. Agnihotri, Director-General, Shipping, said.

Navy's role

Mr K Mohandas, Secretary, Ministry of Shipping, listed the activities that the Government has been taking to face the menace of pirates. They include escorting of commercial vehicles by navies of different countries in sensitive areas. “Indian Navy has been very effective in capturing some pirates. We should be able to start prosecuting these pirates soon,” Mr Mohandas said. Mr Mohandas said that they are in talks with INSA to ensure that ships are able to hold on to the pirates for a longer time.

mamuni@thehindu.co.in

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Published on March 04, 2011
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