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Cyprus cabinet approves draft anti-piracy legislation
Monday, April 23, 2012
#913; draft anti-piracy Bill adopted on last week by the Cabinet creates new standards in combating piracy incidents against Cypriot vessels, by providing for armed escorts.
The Minister of Communications and Works Efthymios Flourentzos said the Bill was “pioneering and important”, noting that its approval by the Cabinet and its consequent adoption by the House of Representatives will turn Cyprus into “a pioneer on a global scale” on the matter.
The Cyprus Shipping Chamber welcomed from its part the adoption of the Bill, noting that it may provide an answer to the “gangrene” of the phenomenon of Piracy.
Flourentzou said that the Bill regulates the provision of armed escorts to Cyprus-flagged vessels, by specially trained and certified guards.
Asked on the way past concerns on behalf of the maritime administration were surmounted, the Minister said that the obstacles and concerns were overcome following a long and coordinated work of all parties involved.
“A coordinated work has been done by all involved,” Flourentzou noted, referring to the Ministries of Communications and Works, Justice and Labour, as well as other competent authorities.
All parties addressed the draft Bill by taking into account the international context and with an aim to strengthen Cypriot shipping, the Minister added.
He also disclosed that many ship owners were discussing the problem, exerting pressure in favor of a solution, due to piracy-related problems in the area of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden.
In another question on the position of the International Maritime Organization concerning the Cypriot legislation, Flourentzou said that all IMO conventions have been taken into account.
There is a lot of international pressure to address the issue, Flourentzou said, noting that it is up to the individual countries to take up legal action.
The Minister said that there are other countries that have taken similar measures and noted that Cyprus is one of the first countries to adopt such legal acts, making it a pioneer in the field. “The goal is Cyprus to retain its position in world shipping”, he added.
Asked on the provisions of the draft Bill concerning armed escorts and whether Cyprus Police could undertake such a role, the Minister said that both private and public companies that are properly licensed would be able to provide such services. He added that these companies should submit a request to the competent authorities in order to get a license.
The Cyprus Shipping Chamber welcomes the Bill
In a relevant announcement, the Cyprus Shipping Chamber welcomes the adoption of the Bill to combat Piracy on Cyprus ships, adding that “the ‘Anti-Piracy’ Law will provide a response to the current ‘gangrene’ of the phenomenon of Piracy affecting International Shipping, which has escalated in recent years”.
Moreover, the Chamber anticipates that, with the subsequent approval of the Bill by the House of Representatives very soon, Cyprus will become the first country in the European Union, and possibly, internationally, which will regulate in such detail this burning issue for International Shipping.
In this way, the country will further enhance its maritime infrastructure, as well as the image held today as a reliable and constantly developing Maritime Centre, it is noted.
The Chamber, which is the official representative of the Cyprus Shipping Industry, notes in conclusion its close cooperation with the Cyprus Maritime Administration and especially the Department of Merchant Shipping, during the preparatory stages of this Bill over the past year.
IMO concerns and shocking data
The International Maritime Organization maintains the position that the use of armed personnel – seafarers should not be armed and the carriage of PCASP remains a matter of decision for the ship owner, after a thorough risk assessment, to request and the Flag State to decide. Flag States should have a policy in place on whether or not the use of PCASP will be authorized and, if so, under what conditions.
According to the IMO website, while providing guidance as to under which conditions PCASP can be contracted to prevent ships falling in the hands of pirates, IMO has clarified that it neither endorses nor institutionalizes the practice or the carriage of firearms on board merchant ships.
The use of privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) on board merchant ships and fishing vessels, it says, is a matter for a flag State to determine in consultation with shipowners, operators and companies. Masters, shipowners, operators and companies should contact the flag State and seek clarity of the national policy with respect to the carriage of armed security personnel.
IMO also stresses that all legal requirements of flag, port and coastal States should be met.
If armed security personnel are allowed on board, it is added, the master, shipowner, operator and company should take into account the possible escalation of violence and other risks.
If a flag State decides to permit this practice, it is up to that State to determine the conditions under which authorization will be granted, it is added.
The IMO estimates that the cost of Piracy incidents is around 7 to 12 bln US dollars annually. According to International Maritime Bureau data, from January 1 to March 19, 2012, 87 piracy attacks have taken place and 9 ships have been hijacked by pirates, seven of which off Somalia. Alone in Somalia, 92 seafarers have been held hostages. Somali pirates held 13 ships up to March, while retaining 197 hostages.
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