June 23, 2000 | News Releases on Asia
Attacks against commercial ships have tripled over the past decade, with 285 reported cases last year alone, says Dana R. Dillon, a Southeast Asia policy analyst in Heritage's Asian Studies Center. Nearly two-thirds of those attacks occurred in the pirate-infested waters of Asia, through which 45 percent of the world's shipping moves.
Acts of maritime piracy range from the classic boarding and hijacking of a merchant vessel on the high seas to the more common act of stealing from a ship while it is anchored. Pirates usually target the ship's stores, safe, and the crew's valuables. While few pirates attempt to steal a ship or its primary cargo, almost all reported acts of privacy involve armed intruders who threaten and often injure, kidnap or kill members of the crew.
The Clinton administration has made some efforts to combat the problem-such as holding regional seminars on the issue-but they are insufficient, the analyst notes. The United States has not helped institute security guidelines to protect Asian ports, where 70 percent of piracy acts occur. Safer ports will lead to fewer piracy attacks, resulting in lower shipping costs and insurance fees, Dillon says.
Dillon recommends the administration and Congress take several low-profile and low-cost steps to help America's trading partners combat privacy:
"The administration must convince the governments in regions most affected by piracy to demonstrate, clearly and purposefully, their determination to stem the incidence of maritime piracy, to crack down on corrupt maritime forces, and to secure their ports and waters from the threat of piracy," Dillon says.