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Asian Co-operation Conference
Combating Piracy & Armed Robbery Against Ships

Tokyo, 4-5 October 2001

Preservation of Life:

An Owners Perspective.

Capt. Duncan M. Telfer
General Manager, Fleet
The China Navigation Co. Ltd.,
Swire Group.
Chairman, Nautical Institute Hong Kong.

I have been asked here today by the Marine Department of the Hong Kong Government via The Hong Kong Ship Owners Association, where I sit on the IMO Sub Committee. We extend a sincere thank you to the Japanese government for making this event possible and for their hospitality.

   It is very encouraging to be given the opportunity to participate in a conference on issues of such great importance to the men and women, that take ships to sea, the seafarer, as well as to owners, consignees and shippers of cargo, amongst others. It is the seafarers who are placed in harms way and risk injury and life as a result of a lack of law and order in many countries, coastal waters and sea-lanes. It is hoped that the members of this group will have the  Authority, resources and endeavour to take action to place law and order where it is required. The seafarer must have the knowledge and confidence that they are being protected to enable them to operate our national fleets in a safe and hindrance free environment.

   It would be wrong to lecture this conference and its delegates, who are already achieving much, on the problem of piracy. However I will take the short time available to highlight certain current issues.

   Piracy attacks hit a 10-year high last year; 72 seafarers were killed compared to 3 in 1999. On top of the 72 reported deaths, another 99 people were injured, up from 24 in 1999. 26 seafarers are reported to be missing. The IMB states that "unless some positive action is taken we are on course for a dramatic increase in this crime". The following quote is taken from a recent International Chamber of Commerce IMB Shipping course: -

   "Modern Day Piracy, of whatever form, is a violent, bloody, ruthless practice and is made the more fearsome by the knowledge on the part of the victims that they are on their own and absolutely defenceless and that no help is waiting just around the corner".

   This clearly states the position of the seafarer.

   The passage goes on: -"What is making the situation worse is that so many countries, instead of being pro active about the difficulties, tend to be recessive and put forward copious arguments as to why either there is no problem or they cannot do anything about it anyway."

   Could this apply to any country represented here today?

   It is further stated that, legally piracy is committed on the high seas or in a place outside the jurisdiction of any state. Most of the present day acts take place within the territorial waters of a sovereign state. This may be legally correct; however, such a distinction is irrelevant in the eyes of the victim, the seafarer.

   Sovereignty. Sovereignty is a recurring word in a number of maritime problems, including, the handling of refugees, or stowaways, protection from armed robbery against ships, combating piracy or even now the global issue of harbouring terrorism.

   It is up to governments, especially port and coastal states, to put that protection in place while international ships are in their territorial waters. If countries cannot do this, then they should say so and enlist the assistance of those that can do something. Sovereignty is no excuse for an inability to react.

   Moving on. I will take a few minutes to comment on certain protective and preventative items that have been proposed or are often debated.

   Merchant seafarers are not military trained. As such they do not have the necessary practical or theoretical skills to handle firearms. Nor do they have the psychological testing for such responsibilities or preparedness for the results of such.

   While resident in Papua New Guinea, a country with its own land based law and order issues, it was often agreed that it was best not to keep arms or weaponry within your home. If the ‘rascals’, as the often violent criminals were known, found out that you kept guns they would target your house for the guns. This would happen at sea and as such the problem would further escalate.

   To place guns on ships may act as a deterrent. However, such action must come with a new look at training and highly regulated gun control for all types of vessels of all nations. Does the ability to police such a regime exist?

   The best onboard protection is passive. Such as extra lookouts in known pirate areas, searchlights, fire hoses rigged, stated alarm procedures and the ability to report immediately to a responsible authority who can provide an effective and rapid response.

   Our own company ISM procedure manuals state that: -

   "Once pirates or terrorists have boarded the vessel and gained access to the accommodation or engine room, no effort should be made to obstruct them. The safety of personnel must not be placed at risk".Support should be put behind ever improving communications technology to monitor the progress of a vessel’s passage and to clearly identify and or locate a particular vessel.

   A number of electronic systems are now available that can be concealed onboard a vessel and will continue to transmit a ship’s identity and location even after the main power supply has been cut of. There is no doubt that such a system can be adapted and developed to transmit the ships unique IMO number. As such there are many benefits to security services, as well as management, that are applicable to such a device. It also provides a realistic and practical alternative to a recent proposal put before the IMO to prevent phantom ships. MSC/74/17 piracy and armed robbery against ships, proposed that the IMO number is embossed and painted clearly on a ship's side together with the name and registry as existing. It is considered that such action would encumber many ships worldwide that are never likely to encounter such threats. Whereas the technological answer can provide identification and search and rescue benefits.

   In closing. If any good is to come of the appalling events in New York and Washington on the 11th September 2001, it should be to note the ability of the international community to come together and co-operate for a common cause. I have no doubt that the countries and organisations represented here today have the ability to create further initiatives and form co-operations that will resolve many of the existing problems raised by this conference. Resolutions that will reduce and eliminate the problem of piracy and armed robbery facing the seafarers of our countries today.

   Thank you.

Chairman's Concluding Statement

   This Conference was attended by government officials and representatives from international organizations and private sectors in their personal capacity. It does not therefore, aim at adopting any resolutions or agreements. To conclude this Conference, I would just like to briefly sum up the outcome of this meeting.


   At the first session, participants discussed the current situation of piratical problems in Asia. Participants were all deeply concerned about the fact that the number of piratical cases had been increasing during the past few years and that atrocious organized crimes such as sea jacking occurred especially in the Southeast Asian waters. In the course of two-day discussions, serious concerns were expressed by the participants and representatives of private sectors about the safety of seafarers. They also shared the view that piratical issues posed a serious threat to lives of the crew and the safety of a ship service and that the Asian region as a whole should join forces to combat the piratical problems.


   At the second session, participants discussed the latest counter measures taken by each country, including domestic measures and bilateral co-operation arrangements. Participants expressed their great appreciation for various counter measures against piracy and armed robbery against ships taken by both governments and private sectors in Asian nations. They shared the view that it was important for Asian countries to continue to make such efforts in co-operation with private sectors.


   At the third session, participants actively discussed the future direction of regional co-operation in combating piracy and armed robbery against ships. Participants shared the view that multilateral regional co-operation was indispensable in order to effectively combat piracy and armed robbery against ships and that Asian nations should take the initiative in taking the anti-piratical measures in Asia.
   Participants shared the view that in light of the current situation where the number of 'the piratical cases were still increasing despite the various efforts made by countries and organizations concerned, it was necessary to explore a new approach in order to solve the piratical problems and to consider developing a regional co-operation agreement for the more effective implementation of counter measures against piracy and armed robbery against ships. Participants also shared the view that the modality of such an agreement should be subject to further discussion and that experts working group to develop the agreement should be convened at an appropriate time among the countries and international organizations represented here in this Conference.
   Participants shared the view that the outcome of this Conference should be reported to the ASEAN + 3 Summit Meeting, which would be held in November, since this Conference had been proposed at the last year's ASEAN + 3 Summit Meeting: and thereafter to IM0 for information and action as appropriate.


   In the end, I, as Chairman, would like to express my sincere appreciation to all of you for your active participation in the discussions and for your great contribution to make this Conference successful and fruitful.

Postal Address:

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