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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Letter to LL - lack of political will, not lack of legal framework to prosecute.



I would like to take issue with the CMF statement about international piracy law in Lloyd’s List today (Pirate operations disrupted as second mothership captured).


It is untrue that “(naval forces) had no legal right to detain them, they were not committing an act of piracy and had not attacked anyone at the time of their detention.”  Any State may prosecute pirates captured by their warships. The often rehearsed excuse that international law requires pirates to be caught in the act of an attack as a condition for prosecution has no basis in international law. 


UNCLOS, to which the UK is a signatory, is clear on the point in its ‘Definition of Piracy’ (Art 101). Under Art 101 (b) piracy includes participation in a pirate craft i.e. “any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;”


Under Art 103 ‘Definition of a pirate ship or aircraft’ includes where that craft is intended for future use in piracy – “A ship or aircraft is considered a pirate ship or aircraft if it is intended by the persons in dominant control to be used for the purpose of committing one of the acts referred to in article 101. The same applies if the ship or aircraft has been used to commit any such act, so long as it remains under the control of the persons guilty of that act.”


UK law adopts the UNCLOS definition in its national law under Section 26(1), Merchant Shipping and Maritime Security Act 1997 (c. 28).

The reason that the pirates, caught with arms on board hijacked vessels being used as a pirate motherships, were taken back to Somalia and released has to do with lack of political will, not lack of legal framework to prosecute.


This lack of political will is exactly the reason that 80% of pirates caught are released. They will attack again instead of staying under arrest awaiting trial and punishment.


800 seafarers being held hostage, tortured and murdered by Somali pirates? The tightening of the pirate stranglehold on crucial shipping lanes out of the Middle East Gulf? Reason enough for some political willpower?


Michele White, General Counsel, INTERTANKO (International Association of Independent Tanker Owners).