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Piracy concerns sailing into Canadian waters

July 30, 2012

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HALIFAX (Canadian OH&S News)

HALIFAX (Canadian OH&S News)

Piracy experts from around the world were on deck in Halifax last week to discuss methods of curbing the increasing problems facing mariners and the shipping industry.

Hosted by Dalhousie University, the think tank brought together commercial shipping industry leaders, legal and naval experts such as Senator Romeo Dallaire, academics and non-government organizations. The leader of the summit said piracy not only costs the shipping industry billions of dollars each year and threatens international and national safety — but has had dire effects on the crews, many of whom are treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

While the spotlight has been shone on Somali pirates, the scourge has spread to Thailand, the west coast of Africa and even to Canada’s Maritime provinces, according to Hugh Williamson, lead investigator with Dalhousie’s Marine Piracy Project and a professor of the marine affairs program.

Piracy, he said, hits a lot closer to home than Canadians would think.


“We’ve had ships coming into Halifax with damage done by gunfire and attacks from pirates, they come in and you can see bullet holes on the side of the hull,” Williamson said. “It’s definitely not something we’re totally removed from because it’s being brought into our waters. The pirates aren’t here, but certainly the effect they’re having on the shipping industry is being felt here.”

Mariners who are employed on offshore tugboats and work in the international oil industry face especially dangerous waters and are likely to come into contact with pirates, he added.

The crews are the ones who are hit the heaviest, according to Williamson, who estimates that piracy costs the shipping industry $12 million annually. That includes increased freight rates, more fuel to divert ships from risky territory and hiring security guards.

But he added, “there’s a tremendous human cost to piracy that doesn’t get quantified in the numbers they talk about in insurance costs.”

Maryse Durette, senior advisor at Transport Canada, said that losses and costs due to piracy vary depending on circumstance, and the department works closely with members of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to address these concerns.

“The IMO has established a distribution facility for the provision of flag state long-range identification and tracking information to security forces,” Durette explained. “[This] aids their work in the repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships.”

Canada deployed pirate hunters to Africa

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Canada has supported efforts to suppress and prevent international piracy, by way of $750,000 given to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Since 2008, Foreign Affairs has deployed three brigades to the Horn of Africa — an especially hazardous coast.

While Durette said Transport Canada, National Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade each play a role in the anti-piracy campaign, Williamson said one major problem remains: governance.

“Who’s in charge? It’s a security issue, it’s a transportation issue, it’s a human rights issue,” he said, noting that there does not seem to be a lot of co-ordination between national and international bodies in dealing with piracy. “Pirates are basically criminals, it’s not a Johnny Depp romantic thing, there are people out there committing crimes on the high seas.”



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