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Indian Shipping Ministry pushes for naval presence in Gulf of Aden

Indian Shipping Ministry pushes for naval presence in Gulf of Aden

Mumbai: The Shipping Ministry of India is confirmed to be negotiating  the deployment of Indian naval vessels to the pirate infested waters off the coast of Somalia. The talks, which reflect growing concern amongst the Indian maritime industry regarding the safety of Indian seafarers serving onboard a large number of the world fleet, come on the heels of a string of hijacks with the Ukrainian cargo ship Faina becoming the latest vessel to be taken.

 "We have spoken to the Minister of Shipping who is talking with the Ministry of Defense on this matter," Sabhyasachi Hajara, president of the Indian National Shipowners Association told delegates at the fourth annual Seatrade and Tradewinds co-organised Indian Shipping Summit (ISS) in Mumbai on Wednesday. "If nothing else, an Indian naval presence will give Indian crew members moral support to know that their countrymen are escorting their vessels."

Speaking exclusively to SeatradeAsia-Online on the sidelines of the conference, JO Espinoza Ferrey, head of the Policy and planning unit at the IMO expressed his pleasure at the move. "This is all about multi-national cooperation and it will be very good if India deploys a naval presence to the area," he said. "The greater the number of countries patrolling the waters in the Gulf of Aden, the better it is for seafarers and the higher is the likelihood of the capture of the pirates. We have seen the benefits of international cooperation in the Straits of Malacca where the cooperative mechanism drastically reduced the number of piracy related incidents."

Ferrey added that the IMO was hoping that the Security Council will have renewed and strengthened resolution 1816 that permits the pursuit of pirates in Somalian waters by the international naval vessels patrolling the waters.

The likelihood of renewal prior to the resolution's expiry date in December is high given the raised profile of piracy in the region following the capture of the Faina which was carrying a cargo of the tanks, artillery, grenade launchers and ammunition. Although the pirates have confirmed that they have no intention of retaining the cargo or offloading the weapons -  opting to barter the crew for $20m in cash, the news has made front page headlines around the world.

"If I were more cynical", a delegate at ISS told SeatradeAsia-Online, "I would thank the pirates for taking the Faina since it finally lets the world know what we have been talking about all this time."  [03/10/08]