Japan’s anti-piracy operation in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden in Somalia has assisted and provided protection to more than 18,000 Filipino seafarers plying the dangerous sealane.
Following the entry into force of Japan’s “Laws on Punishment of and Measures against Act of Piracy” on July 24, 2009, the Japan Self-Defense Force has started vessel escorting operation in the Gulf of Aden not only for Japanese vessels but also for all other foreign vessels.
Since then, 2,632 vessels with various national flags have benefited from the Japanese escort operations.
“Filipino seafarers are by far the biggest beneficiaries – total of 18,573 people – of this escort operations in terms of the nationality of the crew,” the Japanese Embassy said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Filipino seafarers are by far the biggest beneficiaries – total of 18,573 people – of this escort operations in terms of the nationality of the crew,” the Japanese Embassy said in a statement on Tuesday.
The legislation enables Japan’s Self-Defense Force to protect vessels from acts of piracy regardless of their nationality.
It complements global efforts to ensure a safe passage for ships in response to the rampant acts of piracy and hijacking occurring off the coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden.
Since 2009, Japan’s Maritime Bureau under Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has been receiving applications from various maritime-related organizations or ship operators, owners and managers from around the world for escort assistance and safe passage of ships.
Vessels escorted by the operation are oil tankers, with some cargo ships, car carriers, container ships and LPG carriers.
Following the surge of hijackings in African waters, the Philippines had sought international help in providing protection to the thousands of foreign seafarers against piracy, particularly those sailors onboard ships plying the routes of Gulf of Aden and Western Indian Ocean.
A number of Filipino seafarers remain in the hands of ransom-seeking pirates in Somalia. The last known number Filipino sailors being held in Somalia is estimated at 45.
The global shipping industry, which carries 80 percent of international trade, employs about 1.2 million seafarers, the bulk of whom come from the Philippines.
Piracy and ransom kidnappings of Filipino sailors, particularly in the dangerous Gulf of Aden off Somalia, have long been a problem for the Philippine government as it lacks the capacity to monitor their movements when at sea.
Somali authorities are likewise powerless over these groups since there is no existing central government in the African state.
Since the United Nations withdrew in Somalia in March 1995 without restoring a functioning government, little progress has been made.
Philippine officials have been in a dilemma on how to provide protection to the seafarers due to the rapid mobility of the seamen and the government’s inability to track their destination.
A ban proposed by the Department of Foreign Affairs has met strong opposition from local seafarers’ groups, saying this policy would cost them their jobs and force shipping companies to turn to other nations for manpower.
The Philippines is the world’s leading supplier of ship crew with over 350,000 sailors, or about a fifth of the world’s seafarers, manning oil tankers, luxury liners and passenger vessels worldwide, exposing them to piracy attacks.
As a policy, the Philippine government does not negotiate nor pay ransom to kidnappers, but gives ship owners the free hand in negotiating for the release of abducted Filipino sailors. - Michaela del Callar, VVP, GMA News
This article was posted by Neptune Maritime Security via gmanetwork.com. MaritimeSecurity.Asia in cooperation with www.neptunemaritimesecurity.com