On the armed guarding on ships
Member of the PB of the CC of the KKE
of piracy and the armed robbery at sea, which nowadays has taken on
great dimensions with thousands of seamen falling victims to it,
is a historical phenomenon that has its own qualitative elements in
each historical period.
The search for
the real causes that breed it and of the factors that feed it and reproduce
it on a stronger basis demonstrates that the problem is complex and
that it is not restricted to the “poor devils” who raided the ships
in order to wrest some means of subsistence.
Things have changed
since in the Bay of Bengal for instance or in other regions ships often
had a “date” with the armed robbers with the pirogues.
absolute poverty of hundreds of millions of people that the capitalism
causes in Africa, in Asia and Latin America is being exploited by powerful
international criminal networks that develop
piracy as a profitable business activity that spreads in several geographical
regions, changes its centres at times, utilizes trade routes with heavy
traffic, is linked with the arms and drugs trade, with criminal networks
Piracy at sea
develops on the socioeconomic capitalist basis that breeds all forms
of criminality while the phenomenon flourishes
in specific conditions with the activation of certain factors.
of piracy in the Horn of Africa has its own course. It is linked with
the civil war in Somalia which was reinforced after the American-Ethiopian
intervention in 2006 and continues up today in the name of combating
flourished in conditions marked by the destruction of thousands of fishermen,
who have been the victims of the exploitation of the resources
of the sea by the big interests, and the destruction of the sea environment
by the dumping of chemical and other dangerous wastes which, along
with drought, led hundreds of people and children to death from hunger
Under these conditions
and under the painful lack of a revolutionary movement, the terrain
for the recruitment of the local poor population was formed.
of the pirate criminal network
of the activity of the pirate criminal
network is a qualitative element as
usually they do not limit themselves to robbing
seamen, to taking food and other things
from the ship but capture the ships and the crews, to
sell the ship’s cargo, to extract
ransoms worth millions of dollars.
According to the
data of the international organizations the money collected is dispersed
to various parties. “Investors” receive 50%, pirates 30%, those
who guaranteed the transfer of the pirates to the targets as well the
safe keeping of the hostages 10%, while 10% is destined for the members
of the tribe (daily “Eleftherotipia” 16.7.2011). The total amount
of ransoms paid to Somali pirates in the past three years is estimated
at 280-300 million dollars, while the participation of Greek ship-owners
in the payment of ransoms reaches 10-13% (www. Dealnews.gr, 10.05.2011).
are related to a significant modernization of the infrastructure and
the equipment used by these criminal networks.
radars, satellite systems for spotting
the geographical position of the ship, satellite phones, ships
serving as bases and very fast crafts for the dispersion of the armed
men, modern military equipment.
Of course a significant
number of attacks in 2010, which has a declining tendency, were still
carried out with small crafts and knives. This shows that there still
exists a small part which has not been incorporated yet into the organized
According to the
data of IMO for 2010, the international intergovernmental organization
of the UN, it seems that the majority of incidents took place in Eastern
Africa (Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique) with a tendency for a
higher concentration of incidents in Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden
which increased in 2011.
incidents increased in the Indian Ocean (77 assaults in 2010 compared
to 27 in 2009) and in the Arabian Sea, between India and Oman-South
Yemen, in the entrance of the Persian Gulf where in 2010 took place
16 incidents compared to 2 in 2009.
There has also
been a significant increase of the incidents in the South China Sea
where 134 assaults were reported in 2010 from 77 in 2009. There has
been a fall in the Strait of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia
where, apart from the change in the pirates’ targets, the coordinated
guarding of military crafts from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and
Thailand has also had a certain impact.
In South America
and the Caribbean the incidents increases to 40 in 2010 from 36 in 2009
and in West Africa they remained at around 46-47.
During the period
2008-2010 there were 15 assaults on ships under a Greek flag while two
were occupied by pirates without causing any loss of human life.
that the majority of the assaults took place in international waters
on ships which were in motion while there was also a significant number
of assaults on anchored ships within national waters but also within
the region of ports. This confirms the accusations concerning the involvement
of state authorities while on the other hand it shows the possibility
to mitigate the phenomenon, if there existed the related protection
and activation of the national means.
of imperialist forces
of the strong imperialist states and states with a subordinate position
in the imperialist pyramid have been
congesting in the Horn of Africa over
recent years in the framework of the general geo-strategic goals,
utilising piracy for the consolidation of their positions in the region
and the promotion of their plans for the control of
places with a special strategic importance such as the Gulf of
Aden, the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf.
The recent developments
in the Persian Gulf, the aggressiveness of the United States, the NATO
and the EU against Iran and the preparation of a new imperialist war
find in the region a naval machine ready for war which is being strengthened
under the pretext of piracy.
The naval forces
that operate in the region include:
Maritime Forces (CMF), the combined naval forces in the framework
of which 35 warships from 24 countries are mobilized with a special
regular force in the region of the Aden Gulf.
SOMALIA , a naval force which has been formed by the European Union.
Greece participates in it with one or two warships. This force organizes
operations under the code name “ATALANTA” according to a relevant
decision of the UN in the name of protecting the ships that transfer
humanitarian aid to Somalia, for the prevention of piracy in the Gulf
of Aden. EUNAVFOR has expanded competences and fulfils the role of a
coordinator in the framework of Maritime Security Centre (Horn of Africa)
of the EU is not restricted to the naval force but extends to general
political-economic activities in the framework of the policy of promoting
the imperialist goals in the Horn of Africa and the African continent
in general where there is an increased activity of the powerful imperialist
states. The decision of the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU in December
2011 for the appointment of the well known Alex Rondos, who was an advisor
of George Papandreou during the 90s, as a representative of the EU in
the region is a characteristic fact.
of A. Rondos is related to the formation of mechanisms and the promotion
of plans that concern for instance activities for the construction of
political structures, for the upgrading of economic development and
economic cooperation in the region, giving priority to the exploitation
of vast arable lands and natural resources for the benefit of European
NATO MARITIME GROUP, a force which consists of US ships and ships
of other NATO member-states.
of China, India, Japan and Russia which navigate in regions that include
the international channel for the transit of ships sailing westwards
or eastwards, in the Aden Gulf.
At this point,
we have to underline the significance of the recent article of “RIZOSPASTIS”
which stresses not only that the Greek shipping is incorporated into
the plans of NATO and the imperialist plans in general, but also that
the ship-owners in cooperation with the Defense Ministry are searching
for ships and crews that will carry military equipment for large scale
military operations of NATO in the region of the Persian Gulf.
The issue becomes
more complicated if we take into account that these developments are
related to the decision of the government concerning the armed guards
on Greek ships.
A new business
activity has emerged today which provides ships with armed and unarmed
According to the
data of the companies that provide this kind of service it seems that
recently there are about 125 companies active on a global scale, which
are called companies of “maritime security”.
In Greece there
are about 5 companies active in this sector which have a significant
number of reserve or retired men of the Underwater Demolition Teams
(OYK), commandos and generally men from
the army’s special forces.
apart from hiring weapons undertake the supply of equipment, the installation
of barbed wire and power lines, the training of crews with an overall
payment ranging from 30.000 to 80.000 dollars.
have already created their basis in Mombasa (Kenya), in Dar el Salaam
(Tanzania) and other African ports.
Despite the deliberate
promotion of the solution of the armed or unarmed guards, only 10% of
the global fleet has yet chosen this solution and this element shows
the hesitation of parts of the ship-owning capital due to the great
danger to the ships themselves.
At the same time,
despite the exaggerations which have been heard concerning the number
of states which have chosen the solution of the armed guards, data from
various sources report that this solution has been chosen by the governments
of India and Liberia.
draft law must be withdrawn
Taking into account
the various aspects of the implementation of the draft law concerning
the presence of armed guards on ships that the government is about to
bring in the Parliament, we decisively
demand its immediate withdrawal and the
cancellation of such plans for the following reasons:
- The existence of armed guards and military equipment on the ship creates a very dangerous situation that will have tragic consequences at the expense of human life at sea and reinforce the aggressiveness of pirate criminal networks and consequently the dangers for the ship and the crew.
is well known that these criminal networks have at their disposal economic
resources and adapt their activity while they possess modern technical
equipment, capable of overcoming the resistance of the ship involving
the crew in much greater dangers than today.
In fact the
existence of armed guards actually
creates conditions of war that might lead to great damage,
even to the destruction of ships, to deaths and serious injuries to
an extent that cannot be compared to the current consequences and losses
of human lives.
It is beyond
any doubt that the exchange of fire
on a ship that transfers oil, or any of its derivatives, gas and chemicals
might lead to a fire, to an explosion or
can even blow up the ship leading to
“mass graves” with dead and injured people.
Despite the differences
the same holds true, more or less, for other categories of ships taking
into account that pirates possess or can get hold of modern weapons
including automatic or semiautomatic AK-47 (Kalashnikov), RPG-7
grenade launchers, rocket launchers SPG-9 and large caliber machine
guns capable of punching holes in the metal of the ship and causing
This version that
has to do with the event of exchanging fires without the pirates being
on board becomes even more dangerous in the case of a battle on the
ship taking into account the cruelty of the battle, the aggressiveness
of the pirates and the development it will have through the involvement
of the seamen.
We can also support,
based on evidence, that the ships that will have armed guards will constitute
a special target of the pirate criminal networks with a similar preparation.
- The existence of the armed guards creates conditions that change the character of the seamen’s profession since signing on in such a ship is like signing on in a “war zone” something that entails grave dangers for the physical safety and the lives of the seamen.
This fact becomes
obvious from the article of the draft law that provides the possibility
of the return home for a part of the crew that does not wish to
work under these conditions. Of course this provision does not solve
the problem because the seamen will have to choose between dangers and
unemployment, irrespective of what they want
situation has a negative impact on the working rights of the seamen,
entails the danger of arbitrariness, provocations, of
the use of this mechanism for exerting anti-worker pressure.
At the same time
the role of captain is changing as, according to another article of
the draft law, captains will be compelled to play a military role
because, according to the draft law, the armed guards “operate under
the leadership of the captain”. The captain will have to take care
for the familiarization of the guards, to monitor their activities,
and will be subject to sanctions for any shortcomings.
3. The provisions
which refer to the issuing of joint ministerial decisions on issues
of type and amount of armaments, the use of weapons etc are also particularly
worrying, which make the matter of armed guards on the ships even more
dangerous in its development. Taking into consideration that anyone
can be involved in this matter, including sections of mercenary armies,
as they constitute the staff of companies which possess legal, and formal
qualifications and recognized certification of quality (!), as the draft
law provocatively mentions.
A symptom of
The above positions
cannot be reasonably challenged or rejected in the name of the dangers
The recent 89th
Session of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee (11-20 May 2011) remained
(up to this moment) at the older recommendations for dealing with pirate
attacks and armed robberies and did not approve proposals for the issuing
of recommendations concerning the existence of armed guards on the ships,
as there was a lot of concern about the negative consequences at the
expense of human lives at sea.
In a related circular,
which constituted a compromise, it is mentioned that the issue of armed
guards is subject to the responsibility of the state of the ship’s
But the directives
of the Ministry of Citizen Protection to the Greek delegation which
took part in this session of the IMO are interesting, because they reveal
that in the draft law which the government is bringing for consultation
positions are being proposed which had been rejected just a few months
previously by the same ministry.
things the directives mention: “A fixed position of our country
up today is the non presence both of armed and non-armed teams of guards
on a ship with the aim of protecting it from acts of piracy or armed
robbery, as is in any case recommended by the International Maritime
We note that the
self-proclaimed “best practices” of the IMO concerning the phenomenon
of Piracy provide for a series of measures which are related to the
readiness of the crew and the use of various preventative measures,
among them the speed of the ship, the use of means of fire-fighting,
immediate communication with land, the use of specially protected channels
at sea etc.
have their importance, and can to various extents stop an attack in
combination with the protection of territorial waters, anchorages, harbours
as well as the area around them by the navy and air-forces of the region’s
In any case the
phenomenon of contemporary piracy, as with other capitalist cancers,
demonstrates that exploitative system, which is in its final imperialist
stage, has rotted and exudes a stench, thus placing the task of its
overthrow before the peoples.
“Rizospastis”, organ of the CC of the KKE on 15/01/2012