Mumbail: Prime minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said piracy was threatening “a large number of Indian seafarers” and warned that the domestic shipping industry’s growth depended on stepped-up maritime security.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that recent attacks in regional waters were a sign of higher risk from pirates, who were previously known to operate off Somalia in the Gulf of Aden.
“Instances of pirate attacks in the Arabian Sea and more recently in the Indian Ocean - much beyond the piracy-infested areas of Gulf of Aden - pose a serious threat to us by putting at risk a large number of Indian seafarers and ships, as also our seaborne trade,” he said.
Singh’s remarks followed the hijacking of an Indian merchant vessel - with 21 Indian sailors on board - near the port of Oman in August by suspected Somali pirates.
“Incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships are a cause of concern to all of us and to the shipping industry in particular,” Singh told a function at the state-run Shipping Corp. of India.
“Any industry can thrive only in an atmosphere of safety and security,” Singh said in Mumbai, India’s financial hub.
Piracy for ransom is an organized and lucrative operation in Somalia that has expanded into a vast area off the coast. In 2010 a record 1,181 seafarers were kidnapped by pirates, according to marine safety experts.
“We should also ensure adequate Indian control over our maritime activity, for reasons of maritime security,” Singh stressed.
More than 100 pirates have been caught and are awaiting trial in India following a series of skirmishes with the navy near the country’s Lakshadweep islands this year.
India, which in 2008 joined an international naval force in the pirate-infested waters, is seen in the forefront of the exercise which many experts warn has made it a prime target of the maritime brigands.