It is only a matter of time until an Australian sailer is killed in an act of piracy unless government pushes harder to tackle spiralling sea pirates near Somalia, the shipping industry union has warned.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) is calling on the Australian Government to act decisively in the face of the escalating number and severity of pirate attacks on international shipping.
“The Government must to everything in its powers to ensure the safety of the men and women working these dangerous sea routes,” MUA assistant national secretary Mick Doleman said.
“They are having to run an increasingly dangerous gauntlet just to do their job, facing massive stress and the possibility of severe violence or death.
“Inaction is sending a dangerous message to the pirates, encouraging them to launch ever more audacious attacks with potentially highly lucrative results,” Mr Doleman said.
The piracy crisis in the Gulf of Aden near Somalia is getting intensified publicity with the recent hijacking of a Saudi supertanker carrying USD 100 million worth of crude oil and a crew of 25.
The 330-metre modern vessel was en route from Saudi Arabia to the Netherlands, with the cargo to be ultimately delivered to the United States.
The Somali pirates holding the vessel are reportedly demanding AUD 39 million for the release if the ship, setting November 30 as a deadline to pay ransom.
Mr Doleman said the piracy was not limited to the waters around Africa, but Indonesia was also on the list of piracy hot spots after Somalia and Nigeria.
“Many Australian vessels, including our crucial LNG ships, ply these routes regularly.
“The Government needs to commit diplomatic and aid efforts to ending the scourge of piracy,” he said.
The MUA argued consideration needed to be given to the greater use of naval power, along with coordinated international political settlements.
“More than 99 per cent of our exports are transported by sea.
“International shipping in the lifeblood of the global economy and the seafarers who work onboard these ships must have some guarantees they will not be treated as pawns in a dangerous game of cat and mouse between ship owners and armed pirates,” Mr Doleman said.
According to the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre, a total of 199 attacks were reported in the first nine months of this year alone and over 580 crewmembers were taken hostage, nine killed and seven missing.