In the vast realm of the open seas, where the winds of freedom should guide every vessel, a dual threat casts a dark shadow – piracy and geopolitical exploitation. For someone like me, deeply immersed in the maritime industry, the safety and well-being of our seafarers are paramount. It’s high time we address not only the menace of piracy but also the sinister use of vessels and their crews as pawns in the chessboard of geopolitical interests.
As we delve into this multifaceted challenge, let’s reaffirm the principles that underpin our maritime journey. Sovereign governments are entrusted with the protection of their territories, and the obligation to secure the open seas is a shared responsibility of all nations. Merchant vessels, as floating extensions of their flags, bear the duty to uphold the laws of their nation while navigating international waters.
Piracy, a menace rooted in lawlessness on land, demands a comprehensive, land-based solution. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) obliges all states to cooperate in suppressing piracy, not just on the high seas but in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any state. It’s an unequivocal call for collective action.
Private armed guards and industry-developed Best Management Practices, though effective to a certain extent, fall short in the face of the complex geopolitical landscape. Beyond piracy-prone waters, vessels transiting near war-ridden countries face an additional risk – they become unwitting pawns in the geopolitical power play. These vessels, and the brave crews on-board, find themselves caught in the crossfire of conflicting interests.
The use of private armed guards, while a deterrent to piracy, poses challenges in these volatile regions. The lack of a legal framework, unclear rules of engagement, and inconsistent reporting exacerbate the risks faced by seafarers. Moreover, vessels in these waters risk being manipulated for political ends, with crews unwittingly drawn into conflicts not of their making.
To address this dual challenge, a UN-backed international force, operating under the blue beret operations scheme, emerges as a practical and ethical solution. This force, available on a voluntary basis, can provide vessels with trained and armed UN troops and naval escort, ensuring a legal framework for liabilities, training, armament, rules of engagement, and reporting.
The economic costs of piracy and geopolitical exploitation far outweigh the investment needed for preventive measures. Governments, industry players, and non-governmental organizations must collaborate to finance these initiatives, placing the burden on collective shoulders rather than on individual ship owners.
Under UNCLOS, the global community has a duty to cooperate against piracy and protect vessels from becoming pawns in geopolitical manoeuvres. It’s time to extend this commitment to a UN-led “peacekeeping” force, not only against piracy but also against the manipulation of vessels for geopolitical interests. Let’s navigate these troubled waters together, ensuring the safety of our seafarers and upholding the integrity of our global waters. The call is clear, the responsibility shared, and the time for action is now.