Present State of the Piracy Problem and Japan's Efforts
1. Current Situation of Piracy
(From the annual report (January 2001 edition) of the Regional Piracy Report Center of the International Maritime Bureau and a survey by the International Shipping Division of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, Japan)
(1) The sharp increase in piracy cases in recent years (figures in parentheses indicate the number of cases involving Japan-related ships): There were 188 cases (8 cases) in 1995, 300 cases (39 cases) in 1999, and 469 cases (31 cases) in 2000.
(2) The frequent occurrence in Southeast Asia and Southwest Asia:
- Piracy occurs most frequently in Southeast Asia and Southwest Asia.
- In 2000 the number of cases of piracy in these regions was 305 cases, about 65% of the total. Specifically, there were 119 cases in Indonesia, 21 cases in Malaysia, 75 cases in the Strait of Malacca, 55 cases in Bangladesh, and 35 cases in India.
(3) The increase in the number of cases of armed and organized piracy:
The number of cases of piracy armed with guns and knives is on the rise (139 cases in 1999, 183 cases in 2000). Although the number of hijackings involving the seizure and then sale of ships is decreasing (10 cases in 1999, 6 cases in 2000), individual ship hijacking cases are becoming more organized and more heinous.
(4) Main incidents involving Japan-related ships:
- M/V Tenyu incident, September 1998: M/V Tenyu disappeared after departing from Kuala Tanjong on the Indonesian island of Sumatra bound for Inchon in the Republic of Korea. The vessel itself was later discovered at Zhangjiagang in Jiangsu Province, China, but its crew and cargo (about 3,000 tons of aluminum ingots) remain missing.
- M/V Alondra Rainbow incident, October 1999: M/V Alondra Rainbow was attacked after departing Kuala Tanjong in Indonesia bound for the port of Miike in Japan. All of the crew, including the Japanese captain and chief engineer, were set adrift and safely rescued in Thailand. The vessel was seized by the Indian navy in western India. Part of its cargo (about 7,000 tons of aluminum ingots) was discovered in Manila.
- M/V Global Mars incident, February 2000: M/V Global Mars was attacked off Phuket in Thailand after departing Port Klang in Malaysia bound for Haldia in India. All the crew were safely rescued in Thailand. The vessel was discovered and seized by Chinese authorities in Zhuhai in Guangdong Province, China.
2. Analysis and Background of the Rise in Piracy
(1) Almost all acts of piracy take place in territorial waters and so are not included in the definition of "piracy" in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
(2) Reasons for the frequent occurrence of acts of piracy in Southeast Asia include topographical conditions (for example, ships are forced to navigate slowly in such places as the Strait of Malacca), the difficulty of enforcing controls in sea areas where several countries' territorial waters are adjoined, and the evasion of attack reporting. Other possible background factors include the increase of poverty caused by the economic recession following the Asian currency crisis, political instability in Indonesia, and the reduced naval presence of the United States of America and Russian Federation.
3. Measures Taken by Japan (Basic Principles of Antipiracy Measures)
(1) Cooperation on a global basis
- Addressing the issue of piracy at meetings related to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (U.N. General Assembly, U.N. Informal Consultative Process, etc.)
- Promotion of the accession of other countries to related conventions, such as the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (Rome Convention)
- Promotion of cooperation in the International Maritime Organization (IMQ)
(2) Cooperation in Asia
On the basis of the idea that antipiracy measures in Asian waters should be advanced on the initiative of Asian countries themselves, Japan has implemented the following specific policies to promote cooperation among Asian countries:
- Study of the development of a regional cooperation agreement on antipiracy measures
- Maintaining the momentum against the piracy problem (making to the piracy problem at international meetings, etc., such as the ASEAN + 3 (Japan, China, Republic of Korea) summit), calling for signing of the Rome Convention, etc.)
- Support for poverty countermeasures in the regions where incidents of piracy take place frequently
- Support for capacity building in the coast guard agencies of other countries (human resource development, technical assistance)
- Support for strengthening of self-protection by shipowners and cargo owners (cooperation with national shipowners' associations in ASEAN countries)
4. Specific Efforts by Japan
The piracy problem that has emerged with much frequency in Asia in recent years not only represents a threat to the transportation routes of Japan, a mercantile nation, but also could exert a great impact on the social stability and economic prosperity of the whole region. From this awareness of the problem, then Prime Minister Keizo OBUCHI proposed a meeting of related parties, such as representatives of coast guard agencies, at the ASEAN + 1 (Japan) summit in Manila in November 1999. As a result, the Regional Conference on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships was held in Tokyo in April 2000.
In September 2000, following a proposal by then Minister of Foreign Affairs Yohei KONO, the Japanese government dispatched the Mission for Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships to the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia to conduct a survey and exchange opinions on specific cooperation and assistance measures with these countries. Bilateral cooperation also has steadily advanced. For example, in November 2000 a patrol vessel of the Japan Coast Guard visited India and Malaysia for combined exercises aimed at combating piracy.
Meanwhile, it is not an easy task to develop a framework of regional efforts, because the problem is directly concerned with national sovereignty. In order to take positive initiative in promoting regional efforts, however, then Prime Minister Yoshiro MORI proposed the holding of the Asian Cooperation Conference on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships at the ASEAN + 3 (Japan, China, Republic of Korea) summit in Singapore in November 2000. This antipiracy conference took place in Tokyo on October 4 and 5, 2001.
At the ASEAN + 3 (Japan, China, Republic of Korea) summit in Brunei in November 2001, Prime Minister Junichiro KOIZUMI proposed to the other participating countries the convening of a government-level working group of governmental experts to study the formulation of a regional cooperation agreement related to antipiracy measures. The ASEAN side highly evaluated Japan's initiative, and consultations on specific cooperation will be continued.
Regional Conference on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships
Date: April 27 - 28, 2000
Organized by: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Transport (now called the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport), Japan Coast Guard
Supported by: Nippon Foundation
Conference participants: Representatives of coast guard agencies (equivalent to the Director-General of the Japan Coast Guard), representatives of maritime policy authorities (equivalent to the Director-General of the Maritime Bureau of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in Japan), and representatives of shipowners' associations from 17 countries and region (10 ASEAN members, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Republic of Korea, China, Hong Kong, Japan); representative of the International Maritime Organization (IMQ).
Summary of the conference: At the start of the conference, then Prime Minister MORI and then Senior State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Tetsuma ESAKI delivered welcoming remarks, in which they expressed their strong desire for the establishment of a cooperative structure among the countries concerned, as well as the intention of Japan, which enjoys many benefits from the maintenance of security in the waters of Southeast Asia, to support and cooperate, to the extent possible, in developing such a cooperative framework.
As a result of the series of sessions in the conference, the firm determination of maritime policy authorities and others to cooperate with one another and to formulate as many measures as possible in order to combat piracy and armed robbery against ships was expressed in the Tokyo Appeal. Also, the conference adopted the Model Action Plan to Combat Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships, which indicates specific action guidelines that should be followed by maritime policy authorities and private-sector maritime parties, such as shipping companies and crews, as well as the Asia Anti-Piracy Challenges 2000, which are guidelines for the strengthening of efforts by coast guard agencies to tackle this problem and the promotion of international coordination and cooperation.
Outcome of the conference: This was the first international meeting of the representatives of coast guard agencies, maritime policy authorities, and shipowners' associations in Asian countries and regions. The participants shared the recognition that, because the problem of piracy greatly effects the stability and prosperity of the whole region, cooperation among countries is essential. They therefore took the first step toward regional cooperation in antipiracy measures.
Mission for Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships
Summary: Organized as a follow-up to the Regional Conference on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships held in April 2000, a government survey team visited the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia from September 19 to 26, 2000. The team comprised (members from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Transport (now the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport), the Japan Coast Guard, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency).
Consultations with visited countries:
(1) Discussions on how to promote regional cooperation on antipiracy measures
(2) Discussions on follow-up to the Regional Conference on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships
(3) Presentation of Japan's cooperation and assistance measures and hearing of requests from the other countries
- Mutual visits and combined exercises by patrol vessels
- Holding of an experts' meeting (The meeting was held in Malaysia in November 2000.)
- Human resource exchange and training and technical assistance (acceptance of foreign students at the Japan Coast Guard Academy (implemented from April 2001); holding of the Maritime Law Enforcement Seminar (The seminar was conducted in October 2001.); etc.)
(4) Discussions on coordinated patrols
Asian Cooperation Conference on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships
Date: October 4 to 5, 2001
Organized by: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Conference participants: Government officials in charge of antipiracy measures, representatives of shipowners' associations, private researchers, etc. from 17 countries and region (10 ASEAN members, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Republic of Korea, China, Hong Kong, Japan); representatives from the International Maritime Organization (IMQ) and the International Maritime Bureau(IMB) also attended.
Summary of the conference: In order to tackle the problem of piracy crimes, which have become increasingly heinous and organized in recent years, especially in Southeast Asia, information concerning the problem was shared among countries involved and also between governments and the private sector. The future direction of regional cooperation on antipiracy measures was also discussed.
Outcome of the conference: The participants shared the view that (1) multilateral regional cooperation was indispensable and that it was necessary to strengthen cooperation even further among related countries, between governments and the private sector, with international organizations, etc. in order to combat piracy more effectively; (2) the initiative of Asian countries was important in forging antipiracy measures in Asia; (3) in order to promote regional cooperation, it would be beneficial to consider developing a regional cooperation agreement and that a working group of experts should be convened to study the specific content of such an agreement; and (4) it was necessary to report the results of this conference to the ASEAN + 3 (Japan, China, Republic of Korea) summit in November in order to promote discussions on regional cooperation among national governments.
Chairman's concluding statement for the Asian Cooperation Conference on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships by Counsellor ATSUMI of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Piracy Information Links
- Nippon Foundation
- Japan Shipowners' Association, Piracy Information
- International Maritime Bureau Homepage (English)
- International Maritime Organization
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