Piracy a major challenge in Gulf waters: Official

November 13, 2012 - 6:05:18 am

Muhammad Sarfraz Ahmad Khanzada (centre), the Ambassador of Pakistan, cutting a cake with top Armed Forces personnel from other countries during a reception at PNS Khaibar at Doha port on Sunday.


DOHA: Somali sea pirates are not only fierce, they are quite shrewd as well as they ‘reinvest’ their ill-gotten ‘earnings’ from piracy in high-tech equipment to further their sinister operations, says a senior Pakistani naval officer.

With the ransoms they get from their victims they buy better GPS (global positioning systems) equipment and modern weapons, said Commodore Zafar Mansoor Tipu.   

Merchant navy ships moving in the seas that the Somali pirates have sway over are literally defenceless against them because as per international maritime rules, they cannot carry weapons or firearms even for self-defence, according to Tipu.

He, however, noted that with the presence of taskforce 151 and other countries operating there independently, there has been a reduction in the piracy attacks.

Tipu was speaking at a press briefing at Pakistan Naval Ship (PNS) ‘Khaibar’, which is in Qatar to participate in the multinational “Ferocious Falcon 3” fleet exercises conducted by the Qatar Armed Forces (QAF).

The exercises essentially deal with crisis management and the broader project includes participation from Qtel, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), Ministry of Interior among other organisations here. 

PNS Khaibar, however, will take part in the maritime part of the exercise. “This includes tactics to protect oil platforms, LNG carriers, and then, ways to protect the tankers from pirates or hijackers,” Captain Muhammad Faisal Abbasi, Commanding Officer of PNS Khaiber, said.

The 269-crew ship is a type 21 destroyer, which is fitted with weapon systems such as the surface-to-air missiles, anti-submarine torpedoes, and modern sensors, including long range air search radars, surface radars and sonar for submarines.

Talking of the Arabian Sea, Tipu said it and especially territories around the Gulf countries face major risks from sea pirates and terrorists.

“Cargo worth tens of millions of dollars move from this area in vessels and apart from human and economic risks, there are other factors as well such as terrorism,” Commodore Tipu said. 

This includes smuggling of weapons and people and illicit trade through the North Arabian Sea. 

The Pakistani Navy has many years of experience of anti-piracy and anti-terrorism operations at sea, the naval officer said.

In order to safeguard the movement of vessels at sea, international taskforces have also been established. One of them is Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150), which is a 25-nation coalition based in Bahrain. It monitors and stops suspect ships to pursue potential terrorists as part of the Maritime Security Operations (MSO). CTF-151, meanwhile, deals with shipping lanes off the coast of Somalia. 

Pakistani Navy recently handed control of CTF-150 to Britain and will resume command of CTF-151 from December.

“This has projected the true strength of the Pakistani Navy because it shows we have the capability to command international taskforces, as we have taken charge of actual war ships and its operations,” Captain Abbasi said.

Pakistan also sends a number of officers on deputation to Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE and Bahrain, apart from Qatar.

There are a number of Pakistanis currently serving in the Qatar Navy, Armed Forces and the Emiri Guard both on deputation and contractual basis, said Tipu, who is also the Defence Attaché of the Pakistan Embassy here. Pakistan-Qatar defence relations further strengthened after the 2010 defence agreement, he added. The Peninsula