Amid almost daily pirate attacks, The Baltic and International Maritime Council warned Indian officials its members would find other routes if the shipping lanes between India and Africa could not be made safe.
BIMCO, the world's largest private shipping organization, informed the Indian Coast Guard of plans not to use the Indian Ocean Region and the Arabian Sea route if widespread piracy continues.
"They demanded that strict measures be taken so that the affected region could be made safe for shipping traffic," a senior Coast Guard officer told an Indian news service. "The message was conveyed last week to authorities. Now rescue calls are being dealt with strictly."
Approximately 15 hijacking attempts were seen in the Arabian Sea region in the last 15 days. From activities over the past year or more, pirates currently hold hostage about 700 people and 31 merchant ships.
On Jan. 28, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard destroyed a pirate mother ship, the Prantalay 14, which had been used to attack a CMA CGM vessel in the South Arabian Sea, and arrested 15 pirates during an anti-piracy operation off the Lakshadweep coast. The captured pirates were brought to Mumbai.
On Feb. 6, Indian Coast Guard and Navy forces captured 28 pirates and rescued 24 Thai fishermen held hostage by the pirates. The Indian forces also seized a pirate mother ship, the Prantalay-11, which had been used to attack the Greek-flag merchant ship Chios some 100 nautical miles west of Kavaratti, part of the Lakshadweep group of islands.
On Feb. 8, a gang of suspected Somali pirates hijacked an Italian oil vessel, the Savina Caylynwas, off the coast of Somalia, according to the European Union's anti-piracy mission.
In the early morning of Feb. 9, EU NAVFOR received reports the South Korean fishing vessel Golden Wave had been released from pirate control. It was hijacked Oct. 9, 2010, off the coast of Kenya. The 43 crewmembers are reportedly in need of food, water and medical aid. At the request of the South Korean government, an EU NAVFOR warship is currently heading toward the vessel to render immediate assistance.
On Feb. 9, armed pirates seized the Irene SL tanker, carrying about $200 million worth of crude off the coast of Oman, the second tanker hijacking by seaborne gangs in two days.
"The hijacking by pirates of 2 million barrels of Kuwaiti crude oil destined for the U.S. in a large Greek tanker in the middle of the main sea lanes coming from the Middle East Gulf marks a significant shift in the impact of the piracy crisis in the Indian Ocean," Joe Angelo, managing director of INTERTANKO, told Reuters.
"If piracy in the Indian Ocean is left unabated, it will strangle these crucial shipping lanes with the potential to severely disrupt oil flows to the U.S. and to the rest of the world," Angelo said.
Members of INTERTANKO own the majority of the world's tanker fleet.
Increased patrolling by governments and maritime interests in and around the Gulf of Aden is forcing the pirates to operate in the lesser-patrolled waters of the Arabian Sea, according to senior officials of the Indian Navy and Mumbai police.
A record 53 ships were kidnapped in 2010 -- the majority off the Somalian coast, according to the International Maritime Bureau. Piracy attacks have resulted in a 36-fold increase in ransom in five years, according to research by One Earth Future Foundation. Average ransom payments rose to $5.4 million in 2010 compared with $150,000 in 2005.
-- Contact Thomas L. Gallagher at email@example.com.