Frontline has not ruled out redirecting its tankers around the Cape of Good Hope to avoid the escalation of piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden.
Indeed, it has suggested this could be a real possibility for a lot of vessels if the continued fall in charter rates makes transiting the Red Sea an economically unviable option.
It follows yesterday’s decision by Norwegian chemical and products tanker owner Odfjell to redirect all its vessels around the Cape of Good Hope because of what it describes as ineffective action by governments to stem the increasing piracy threat.
Frontline CEO Jens Martin Jensen (pictured) told SMI that steaming around the Cape was being considered following confirmation that two other owners including Odfjell and possibly Stolt Nielsen had decided to redirect their vessels around the Cape.
He told SMI: “We have already had one piracy attack on the Front Voyager one month ago which was fended off by two naval ships and we will have to go via the Cape if the situation doesn’t improve and the financial reward for going through this area is not there
“We need a more unified approach to this problem, probably warships or helicopter support down there; we need to act more firmly. Ships passing through could have soldiers onboard like during the Gulf War.
Terje Storeng, President and CEO of Odfjell, said: “Unless we are explicitly committed by existing contracts to sail through this area, as from today we will re-route our ships around Cape of Good Hope. We trust our customers will appreciate this decision which we have taken to safeguard not only our crews and ships, but also the ships’ cargo. The re-routing will entail extra sailing days and later cargo deliveries. This will incur significant extra cost, but we expect our customers’ support and contribution.
“Several chemical tankers have been hijacked at gunpoint, and although hostages up to now reportedly have been released seemingly unharmed, we do not know if this will be so in the future. Odfjell is frustrated by the fact that governments and authorities in general seem to take a limited interest in this very serious problem. The efforts that are being made do not seem to put an effective end to what can best be described as ruthless, high level organised crime
”When sufficient protection is in place or action taken to prevent attacks from pirates in this area, Odfjell will resume sailing through the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal,” he said.
Meanwhile, Guy Morel, General Secretary of InterManager defended shipping’s right to trade safely in international waters, claiming that routeing vessels away from piracy hot spots was nothing short of giving in to them.
He told reporters: “There is a concept that the seas should be free for trading; they are international and to be used for free trade. It is the world at large that has the responsibility of ensuring that trade remains free on the high seas. To say that our ships cannot trade where they normally trade but have to go somewhere else would be an outrage.”
Meanwhile, Stolt-Nielsen confirmed that Stolt Valor had been released yesterday morning by its hijackers, who took control of the ship two months ago. All crew members were unharmed.
The Stolt Valor, which is on time charter from Japanese owners to Stolt Tankers. was seized while transiting the Gulf of Aden on September 15. Since that time the owners worked continuously with the assistance of the relevant authorities and professional negotiators to secure the release of the vessel and the crew members on board.
The Company, however, remained deeply concerned with the welfare of the crew members of the Stolt Strength, also a time-charter ship, which was hijacked on November 11 and continued to be held by the hijackers in the Gulf of Aden.