Asian states encouraged to unite against piracy

Japan has proposed that Asian countries conduct joint exercises and patrols to counteract the recent increase in piracy in the region, according to Japan Coast Guard Commandant Shogo Arai.

Maritime security vessels from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have already conducted joint patrols at sea and officials from those countries attending an international piracy conference in Tokyo emphasized the effectiveness of their joint actions, Arai said Friday after the meeting’s close.

But the details of any such shared measures can only be drawn up by each country on a voluntary basis, Arai told a news conference.

Chinese officials said China does not need to take part in such joint exercises, he said.

Fifteen Asian economies, including China, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Vietnam and India, took part in the two-day international piracy conference, the first of its kind, at a Tokyo hotel.

The conference ended after unanimously adopting a resolution titled Asia Anti-Piracy Challenge 2000.

The resolution pledged to prepare contact point lists for the relevant authorities of each country and quickly exchange information on piracy incidents, including the location, time and damage incurred in any incident, as well as sharing data to enhance law enforcement activities, such as investigations, prosecutions and convictions.

During the news conference, Arai said Japan, as part of its economic cooperation measures, is willing to provide equipment and vessels to countries with insufficient resources to deal with the piracy threat.

Japan is also ready to let foreign coast guard officials study and train at Japanese maritime security schools, he said.

Participating administrations also agreed that operational-level meetings should be held periodically to further facilitate cooperation, according to the resolution.

According to the International Maritime Bureau of the International Chamber of Commerce, 285 attacks on ships were reported in 1999. This figure is, however, viewed as being merely the tip of the iceberg because most shipowners are reluctant to report attacks to the relevant authorities.

According to a survey by the Nippon Foundation, an organization affiliated with the Transport Ministry, 34 cases of piracy and armed robberies against ships owned or controlled by Japanese firms were reported in 1999, incurring damage estimated at 1.28 billion yen.

As of the end of March this year, 13 piracy incidents have already been reported, with damages estimated at 820.8 million yen, the foundation said.