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Pirates Worry Seafarers Union

By Glen Crofskey, NewsRoom, 10 November 2000, 10:46:00

Piracy in South East Asia is a serious issue for the whole Asia Pacific region, according to the New Zealand Seafarers Union.

The Western Pacific Naval Symposium in Auckland yesterday, which discussed a wide range of topics, including how to detect and combat piracy, heard that pirate attacks were increasing by up to 20 per cent a year internationally.

The president of the Seafarers Union, Dave Morgan, who is also the vice president of the union's Asia Pacific regional committee, said trade to and from New Zealand was at risk from such attacks.

Mr Morgan said he had heard of cases where ships and their entire crew disappeared.

In other cases it is just armed pirates, not organised, boarding vessels in port. They are termed maritime muggings where they run on board, steal everything in sight and run off again, but they armed and they are dangerous, he said.

Mr Morgan said the seafarer's trust fund was helping to finance a project to combat piracy and had come up with several initiatives, including satellites to track ships.

The country's largest exporter, the New Zealand Dairy Board, said it was aware of the piracy concerns.

NZDB spokesperson, Neville Martin, said it exported products worth $1.5 billion dollars, or about 300-thousand tonnes of product, each year into South East Asia, but it had not had any problems with pirates.

He said the Board was confident its shipping agents were taking precautions to protect the cargo.

New Zealand Navy Rear Admiral, Peter McHaffy, said there was a considerable amount of concern, particularly in the western Pacific, about the attacks, which could be very sophisticated.

He said 95 per cent of New Zealand's exports were transported by sea, and regional navies needed to work together to share information and surveillance techniques to combat piracy.