NEW DELHI: Concerned at rising incidents of piracy during the COVID-19 pandemic, maritime body MUI on Monday said it has become a major cause of worry for over two lakh Indian seafarers. The Maritime Union of India (MUI), India’s oldest union of merchant navy officers, said there is around 26 percent increase in maritime piracy due to the pandemic, which has shut down many businesses and job opportunities around the world.
“The menace of maritime piracy is a major cause of concern for over two lakh Indian seafarers as India now provides around 9.35 per cent of the global seafarers and ranks third in the list of the largest seafarers supplying nations to the world maritime industry,” MUI said in a statement.
It said the West Coast of Africa comprising Benin, Angola, Equatorial Guinea and Ghana are the current hot spots of maritime piracy.
“It has become a political issue unfortunately as governments of certain countries are unable or not willing to extend their control over various groups of pirates who manage to procure arms and ammunition without much difficulty,” said Amar Singh Thakur, General Secretary MUI.
“The temptation of a little quick money has led many residents of the underdeveloped countries to choose such an illegal path which continues to terrorize millions of seafarers globally, including Indian citizens,” said Thakur.
A global piracy report published recently by the United Kingdom-based The ICC – International Maritime Bureau, indicates a rise in piracy and armed robbery on the world’s seas in the first nine months of 2020, with a 40 per cent increase in the number of kidnapping reported in the Gulf of Guinea, compared with the same period in 2019.
Pirates armed with guns and knives are abducting bigger groups of seafarers at further distances off the West African coast, MUI said quoting the report and added that it details 132 attacks since the start of 2020, up from 119 incidents in the same period last year.
In the first nine months of 2020, seafarers reported 134 cases of assault, injury and threats, including 85 crew members being kidnapped and 31 held hostage onboard their ships. A total of 112 vessels were boarded and six were fired upon, while 12 reported attempted attacks.
The body said twenty Indian nationals were kidnapped recently from a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker vessel MT Duke off Lome, Togo in West Africa. The vessel was attacked and boarded by six pirates some 115 nautical miles southeast of Lome. These Indian seafarers were recruited by London-headquartered V Group through its ship management company operating in India.
MUI said billions of dollars are paid every year by ship owners or ship management companies worldwide to sea pirates towards ransom amount for securing the safe release of abducted seafarers and added that these companies ironically solicit services provided by kidnap-for-ransom consultants based in developed countries.