Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Three out of ASEAN`s member countries have become victims of Somali pirates so far, therefore it is considered important to discuss the piracy issue in the upcoming 18th ASEAN Summit.

Moreover, the three states - Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore - also are knowledgeable about piracy because it used to be rampant in their own backyard - the Malacca Strait.

Therefore, Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa believes that the ASEAN summit to be held in Jakarta, May 7-8, 2011, would be a perfect opportunity for ASEAN members to share experiences with the world about ways to tackle the piracy problem.

"Indonesia can share its successful story of cooperation with Singapore and Malaysia in tackling piracy in the Malacca Strait which has reduced the number of piracy in the area since 2004," said the minister here Wednesday (May 4).

The Gulf of Aden, located between Yemen and Somalia, is one of the world`s busiest shipping routes and has become a hot spot for pirate attacks.

Last January 2011, the MT Bunga Laurel, a chemical tanker of Malaysia was hijacked by Somali pirates. The vessel which was operated by a Malaysian company but owned by a Japanese firm, had Filipino crew and its cargo was bound for Singapore, BBC reported.

Malaysian troops later stormed the ship and rescued the 23-strong crew. The Malaysian navy managed to capture seven Somalia pirates. The seven men and boys are now facing prosecution for piracy.

In March 2011, Indonesia`s MV Sinar Kudus with 20 sailors on board and carrying 8,300 tons of ferronickel from Aneka Tambang worth about US$225 million, was hijacked in Somali waters.

After being held hostage for 46 days, they were successfully rescued through an effort that combined a military operation and ransom talks on May 1.

However, a day before the 20 Indonesian sailors were released, Somali pirates hijacked MT Gemini, a chemical tanker which is based in Singapore with 13 Indonesian sailors and crew members of other nationalities on board.

The Singapore-based Glory Ship Management which owns the MT Gemini said the ship was pirated on Saturday (April 30) while it was sailing to the port town of Mombassa, Kenya. It said the crew members included 13 Indonesians, five Chinese, four South Koreans and three Myanmarese.

"They were hijacked in Kenya and taken to the north where the headquarters of the hijackers is located," Chief Security Minister Djoko Suyanto said on May 3.

Somali pirates were able to carry out hijackings in several places at the same time because they consisted of more than ten organized groups and each group had about 30 to 50 members, according to National Defense Forces (TNI) Commander Admiral Agus Suhartono.

In an effort to free the 13 Indonesian sailors and their colleagues of other nationalities, Indonesia and Singapore have been communicating with each other intensively , Admiral Agus Suhartono said.

Dealing with piracy is not a new venture for Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia which share responsibility for security in the Malacca Strait which in the past had earned notoriety as the number one piracy hot spot.

Since July 2004, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have established cooperation to maintain security and tackle sea piracy in the Malacca Strait under a trilateral coordinated patrol scheme codenamed MALSINDO Malacca Straits Coordinated Patrols.

Since the joint patrols began to be carried out routinely, the crime rate in the 500-mile long strait decreased by about 70 percent, according to Major General Supiadin, operations assistant to the TNI Commander, in Jakarta in March 2009.

"In 2008, only four criminal cases happened in the Malacca Strait. So the regular patrols we have been conducting with Malaysia and Singapore were very effective," Supiadin.

The number of piracy cases in the Malacca Strait had been 75 in 2000 and 21 in 2004.

The Malacca Strait is currently being looked at as an example of a success story on how to protect security in the world`s busiest sea lane.

The Malacca Strait constitutes a shipping lane between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and links three of the world`s most populous countries, namely India, Indonesia and China.

Over 50,000 vessels pass through the strait per year, carrying about one-quarter of the world`s traded goods including oil, Chinese manufactures, and Indonesian coffee.

Around 50% of global oil shipments, including 70% of Japan`s oil imports and 80% of China`s oil imports, pass through the Malacca Strait every day.

In the past, the number of piracy in the Malacca Strait was three times higher than those in Somalia waters, and Indonesia had often received complaints from other countries.

At present, 12 radars have been installed along the Malacca Strait, from Aceh to Batam, to monitor every ship and boat movement. Malaysia and Singapore have also had their own surveillance system.

The monitoring measure is called "Integrated Maritime Surveillance System", according to Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro on the sidelines of the "ASEAN Defense Senior Officials Meeting (ADSOM) Plus" which was held in Yogyakarta, central of Java, last April 2011.

All those routine patrols, surveillance system, hard work and determination of the ASEAN countries, have made the Malacca Strait safer for cargo ships now.

Few years ago, Efthimios Mitropoulos, secretary-general of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) expressed his optimism that his organization could take lessons from the reduced piracy and robbery in the Malacca Strait to the Gulf of Aden which lies between Somalia and Yemen and has witnessed drastically increasing number of piracy over the past few years.

ASEAN is currently more than ready to share experiences in tackling piracy. Although the situation and condition of Somalia waters might be different from the Malacca Strait, there must be some lessons that one can learn.(*)


Reporter: Fardah
Editor: Jafar M Sidik
Copyright © ANTARA 2011