BIMCO urges police to join anti-piracy patrols.
LAW enforcement officers should join warships deployed as part of anti-piracy efforts as riding squads, thus getting round Interpol"s self-imposed ban on sharing information with any military force, BIMCO has demanded.
The leading shipowner grouping says that such a development would effectively remove obstacles to keeping tabs on pirate gangs through the international policing agency, which has now built a sizeable database of piracy suspects.
The problem is that following the Second World War, Interpol in 1946 decided to limit its activities to the prevention and combat of ordinary law crimes, and to stress its commitment to neutrality while respecting the sovereignty of states.
Accordingly, its constitution states: ?It is strictly forbidden for the organisation to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.?
BIMCO security specialist Giles Noakes said that in practice, the provision is being read as debarring direct co-operation in any form with navies currently engaged in anti-piracy duties off Somalia. But crucially, policemen and women on naval vessels would be entitled to take advantage of Interpol intelligence.
He was speaking after Lloyd"s List reported that Clipper Group boss Per Gullestrup has launched criminal proceedings against the unknown parties that hijacked one of its vessels in the Gulf of Aden in 2008. The landmark case is thought to be the first national criminal investigation into an attack on a ship in international waters.
?Interpol now has a very sophisticated database and a tremendous amount of information that has been passed to them by a number of national police forces that would allow some significant work to be carried out, so long as there were law enforcement shipriders on the warships patrolling the Gulf of Aden and the coast of Somalia,? said Mr Noakes.
If this was to occur, the law enforcement teams would have immediate access to the database. Photographs and fingerprints of captured piracy suspects could be instantly forwarded to Interpol, which could potentially establish whether they had been involved in earlier incidents. That would in turn make possible arrest and prosecution under national law, Mr Noakes said.
Moreover, in some jurisdictions, only law enforcement officers have powers of arrest. The situation is complicated because in a few cases, military personnel do have such a legal status if they have the requisite training. But this appears to be comparatively rare.
?One of the biggest problems has been that very few nation states have this capability. If all nation states provided law enforcement officers with direct ties to their national database and direct ties to the Interpol database, it would meet Mr Gullestrup"s requirements more quickly,? Mr Noakes said.
Some shipping industry figures have floated the idea of organising police co-ordination against pirates through the United Nations. But Mr Noakes argued that this would take time to establish, and would not be necessary if BIMCO"s plan is adopted.