Shipowners blast anti-piracy effort

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Norwegian shipowners don’t think their government is doing nearly enough to fend off piracy attacks at sea. The wave of modern-day piracy in the Indian Ocean, for example, is costing millions and putting crews in constant danger.

Norway has sent a frigate to help ward off pirates and will send another next year, but shipowners don't think that's enough. PHOTO: Forsvaret

At present, complains the head of the Norwegian Shipowners Association (NSA), Norway is not participating in military exercises to help protect merchant vessels in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. Sturla Henriksen of the shipowners’ association (Norges Rederiforbund) told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that of the world’s 10 largest seafaring nations, only Norway is not taking part.

“Little Norway is a major power on the high seas, and this is perhaps the only area where the international community has special expectations regarding our contribution,” Henriksen told DN.

“While the number of attacks increase and the pirates build up their arms, the Norwegian authorities have pulled out,” Henriksen claimed. “In this situation, Norway is leaving it to others to protect our own fleet. The Norwegian authorities aren’t showing any will to protect Norwegian ships or their crews.

“This is unworthy and unacceptable.”

Norway did take part in an EU-led operation during the second half of 2009, sending a frigate to the area. Today, though, Norwegian ships must rely on help from other nations’ naval forces in the area.

Henriksen said the shipowners’ association has asked for a meeting with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg to secure Norwegian participation once again. “We fear that it’s only a matter of time before Norwegian ships and crews are taken as hostages,” Henriksen told DN.

‘Too little, too late’
Defense Minister Grete Faremo has said Norway will participate in another anti-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden in 2012, but Henriksen feels that’s too little, too late.

State Secretary Erik Lahnstein in the Foreign Ministry denied the Norwegian government isn’t doing enough. “Sending a frigate is a considerable contribution for a country like Norway,” Lahnstein told DN. He agreed that it’s “natural” for Norway, as a major shipping nation, to participate both on a political and military basis.

“We have contributed and we will contribute again,” Lahnstein said. He also said Norway was working to boost chances that the pirates, most of whom are from Somalia, are arrested and punished. He has little faith that they’ll be tried in Somalia but thinks Norway can offer political and financial aid to neighboring countries with better-functioning legal system, where pirates could be tried and jailed.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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