NEW DELHI - Piracy is costing the global shipping trade more than US$9 billion a year, according to Indian shipowners, who on Monday demanded that the UN set up a maritime force to halt pirates operating off the Somalian coast in the Indian Ocean.
Increased insurance costs, longer routes to avoid pirate-infested areas, armed guards posted on board ships and ransoms paid for the release of hijacked vessels and crew push up operating costs for the global shipping industry, said Anil Devli of the Indian National Shipowners Organization.
Pirates from Somalia are holding about 26 hijacked ships and 600 crew in captivity. The Horn of Africa nation hasn't had a functioning government since 1991, and piracy has flourished. International militaries patrol the region, but the seas are too vast for the effort to halt attacks.
The association has written to the Indian government to pursue their demand for a maritime force under UN command, much like the world body's peacekeeping force, to ensure the safety and security of sea lanes in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, Devli said Monday.
"What is happening today is that various navies are providing escort services to ships along certain sea corridors," Devli said. "We believe a UN effort would resolve the issue quickly and at much less cost than what the world economy is spending due to piracy."
The force would have a legal mandate to board suspicious ships and have armed soldiers to protect ships at sea as well as armed naval vessels empowered to attack pirate vessels, he said.
The association has written to India's defence and foreign ministries asking the Indian government to push their proposal at the UN Security Council.
The association has also proposed that the UN impose a "no ship zone" off the Somalian coast, which would prevent pirate ships from entering or leaving Somalian waters.
Earlier this year, the Indian government allowed ship owners to deploy armed security guards on ships. The ship owners say the move was effective and prevented those ships from being hijacked.