South China Sea: Pivotal quandaries in controlling piracy

By Guo Changgang

Geographically, the South China Sea is an astounding sea— it’s a part of Pacific Ocean, surrounding an area from the Karimata and Malacca Straights to the Straight of Taiwan Strait of around 3,500,000 sq. km. It is located in the south of [PRC] People Republic of China, east of Vietnam and Cambodia, West of the Philippines, and north of Bangka-Belitung Island and the east of the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra up to the strait of Malacca in the west — The territories and states linked with the borders on the sea— clockwise from north include: the Peoples Republic of China including Hong Kong and Macau, the Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore, and Vietnam. South China sea Islands, collectively an archipelago and several countries claims of sovereignty for these Island and the sea.

Maritime writer, Bateman stated that the latest dwindle in piracy reports in numerous areas of the South-China Sea, there are some tenacious quandaries in combating piracy — Long-standing concerns take an account of many unsettled claims and jurisdictional disputes. For example, the six countries claimed for Spratly Islands—control taken by three of them,. With hardly any comply-upon boundaries in the South-China Sea, states proceed mostly in their own self interest. Further, the lack of settled jurisdictions perplexed the maritime obligations, leads to unimpeded degradation of the marine-environment and privileged the culprit activities at South China Sea, including potential maritime-terrorism.23

Second, American security officials want to chain the ships—their courses, locations, cargoes, speeds,  ports of departure, registrations, and times of influx etc can be tracked with accuracy, as in an air traffic- control system— third reason for minor development is that numerous coastal states given top priority to defending national-sovereignty and managing their recently to control over Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ] resources. The affirmation of EEZ by coastal-states has led to plentiful over-lapping jurisdictional claims and to legal perplex over the right to implement blameless channel through territorial seas by warships, the right to conduct military surveillance activities in the EEZ of a coastal statethere is a common accord that the exercise of liberty of navigation and over-flight in and above EEZ should not impede with the rights of the coastal-state. However, there is still disagreement—One dreadful symptom of this dis-agreement was the clash between the United State [EP-3] surveillance air-craft and a Chinese fighter-jets over Chinese EEZ backyard near Hainan Island on April 01, 2001, later than a political crisis emanate—Fourth, anti-piracy endeavors are also seriously stalled by the flags of convenience mechanism of ships registration.

Captain Jayant Abhyankar, an IMB director stated that one easily has to fax information as to a ship name, owner-ship, tonnage, dimensions, and a registration will be granted– once registered, it is free to be hired for trade transport. Stephen Flynn stated, the former commander in the U.S coast guard and a writer on maritime security stated, It is a mechanism of managed-anarchy. According to the International Transport Workers Federation [ITWF], the flags of convenience allow the worst safety, pay, and guidance standards. In 2001, an IMO survey identified over 13,000 cases of fallacious documents of seafarers, the majority of whom were from Indonesia and the Philippines. This provides an simple chance for pirates or hijackers to penetrate a ship’s crew. Having hijacked a 54 ship, piracy conceded by organized culprit groups occasionally employs phantom-ships—executing under false identities—They may be hijacked or bought in the salvage market. They can be reflagged and registered after un-loading illegal cargo.

Kvashny analyzed critically in his work, “Modern Maritime piracy in Asia”—adding to the quandaries is the general practice of mainly maritime shipping services to entail payment in hard-currency on delivery—the cash based, transient nature of shipping makes it an ideal-medium of exchange and money-laundering for criminal entrepreneurs. There are some simple remedies for avoiding fraudulent-sale or smuggling of illegal imports from phantom ships—every ship has an IMO ID number, based on its unique Lloyd’s-registry—that number could be fixed eternally in a prominent place, so that any cargo dealer can swiftly find-out whether or not a dubious vessel is in fact a phantom ship. This remedy is simple, economical, and likely to be highly-effective in locating phantom vessels.

Shipping companies and ship-owners are accountable for adopting anti-piracy safety measures, including comparatively economical physical security measures like safe rooms and deployment of locks and bolts on cargo-holds, world-wide satellite-based positioning systems to track their shipments around the globe. Some shipping companies have invested in anti-piracy devices like Ship-Loc or Secure Ships, or even economical methods, such as security lights or high pressure water hoses. But most do not, actually because they reckon that the risk of loss is not worth the cost of avoiding.

Boutilier stated, at the out-side of national boundaries, Shippers have long-established norms of functioning. They have to compete with import-quotas, embargoes, and limitations levied by states for political causes, to the commercial loss of the shipper—Shippers may even attain huge profits in making forbidden goods available. In these limited areas, it may be suitable to ship-owners for their vessels to be out of radio contact or un-detectable. Another unrelenting issue for fighting piracy is institutional narrowness. A first-rate deal of helpful information about piracy is enclosed in the files of police and computers, coast-guard, immigration, customs, military, intelligence, and other national-authorities.

It’s extremely abstruse to sharing information straightforward among the governments—doing so very swiftly—for example, when a speculate ship is first sighted—is even more difficult. However, a number of factors hinder synchronized anti-piracy efforts: reservations over legal jurisdiction, disputed sovereignty, and clumsy attempts at the recovery of cargoes, crews, or ships— Even when pirates are identified, abstruse chase across national boundaries has rarely been attempted. For surveillance, the recent MALSINDO patrols have minimized the piracy assaults, pirates have generally responded by increasing their attacks in less protected areas of the region. State and market stake-holders have made only small progress in harmonize and sustaining anti-piracy security measures for the vital shipping lanes of the South China Sea.

Substantially, the stake-holders priorities changed, when the Joint War Committee [JWC] of the Lloyd’s Market Association listed the Malacca Strait and certain areas in the southern Philippines together with areas such as[ Iraq, Lebanon, and Somalia] as prone to terrorism, hull war, related perils, and strikes. As a result, marine insurance premiums were amplified for vessels transiting these areas despite very strong protests by regional-governments and ship-owners. After regional government, the JWC detached the listing in August 2006—with the help of international organizations and user-states—formalized several security measures.

Guo Changgang is Professor of History, Director of Global Studies Center and Exective Vice Dean, Graduate School, Shanghai University, PR, China.

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