Navies too stretched on piracy in Indian Ocean: Britain
Ships using the Indian Ocean will not receive the same level of naval protection from pirates as those in the Gulf of Aden, British Foreign Secretary said.
Ships using the Indian Ocean will not receive the same level of naval protection from pirates as those in the Gulf of Aden because military resources are tight, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said.
Somali pirates have made tens of millions of dollars in ransoms by hijacking ships in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, which links Europe to Asia.
In a letter this month to maritime union Nautilus International and seen by Reuters, Miliband said pirates were focusing more on the Indian Ocean and operating further out at sea due to the success of naval operations in the Gulf of Aden.
"Ultimately, however, it will not be possible on practical and resource grounds to provide the level of military security and protection in the Indian Ocean as can be provided in the Gulf of Aden," Miliband wrote.
His comments were a rare public acknowledgement by a British politician of the limitations of the anti-piracy operation.
Foreign navies have been deployed off the Gulf of Aden since the turn of the year and have operated convoys as well as setting up and monitoring a transit corridor for ships to pass through vulnerable points.
But their forces have been stretched over the vast expanses of water including the Indian Ocean, leaving vessels vulnerable.
Britain's Royal Navy had deployed ships this year as part of the European Union anti-piracy force off the Horn of Africa country's coast. The EU mission numbers 7 ships at present.
The Royal Navy currently has no vessels specifically tasked with piracy but 9 warships and support vessels are deployed in the Arabian Gulf and the Indian Ocean and can be dispatched to deal with piracy, the navy said.
Nautilus International General Secretary Mark Dickinson had written to Miliband over "the continuing deterioration in the situation and the escalation of intimidation and violence".
"Piracy is a deadly serious subject and the stakes are very high," Dickinson said.
Miliband said the risk of attack could be minimised through measures including "careful consideration of route" and registration with the naval security centre in the region.
Dickinson also pointed to worries related to the kidnap of a British couple by Somali pirates in October in international waters north of the Seychelles.
Earlier this month, media reports said the British government had blocked a ransom deal for Paul and Rachel Chandler's release.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said on Wednesday the "claims are totally untrue", adding that efforts were ongoing to secure the couple's release.
Miliband said in the letter that the government "does not make or facilitate substantive concessions to hijackers, including ransoms".
"Although there is no UK law against third parties such as ship owners paying ransoms, we counsel against them doing so as we believe that making concessions to pirates only encourages future hijacks," he said.
Reuters Last Mod: 23 Aralık 2009, 22:51