NITC’s Souri calls for greater action against Somali pirates

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Mohammad Souri, Chairman and Managing Director of NITC, one of the world’s largest independent tanker operators, has called for a stepping up of the international effort to tackle the scourge of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia, where there have been more than 100 attempted attacks this year.

Speaking in Dubai, he revealed that so far this year five NITC VLCCs carrying two million barrels of crude oil each had come under attack from as many as six armed fast boats. The duration of the attacks varied between 50 minutes and four hours. In each case the NITC tanker speeded up and managed to evade being boarded.

He said that tankers were vulnerable targets because their relatively slow speed and size made them cumbersome to avoid pirate attacks, and they did not have any protection nor anywhere to hide.

“Irrespective of the financial costs of the threat of piracy to property, the risk to seafarers’ lives is clearly unacceptable,” he said.

Mr Souri went on to discuss various measures to challenge the pirates and secure the safety of merchant vessels. These included employment of armed security teams – “if permitted by the vessel’s flag state and insurer” – stationed at the two ends of the Gulf of Aden, east and west, to travel onboard the vessel while it transited the Gulf.

The NITC chairman pointed out that shipping’s major choke points – the narrow channels widely used for global sea routes – were:

• Strait of Hormuz, leading from the Persian Gulf
• Bab-al-Mandab, connecting the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden
  and the Arabian Sea
• Strait of Malacca, linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Simple geography forced tankers (numbering about 4,400 sailing worldwide) carrying much of the world’s oil supplies to pass through one or more of three choke point entrances – the Red Sea (Bab-al-Mandab), the Persian Gulf (Strait of Hormuz) and the Malacca Strait (between Indonesia and Malaysia), he said.

Disruption of transit through any of these routes could have a significant impact on the global economy and increase the price of oil, Mr Souri added.