BY DR. WOLFGANG H. THOME, ETN CORRESPONDENT, AFRICA
When some years ago, during an interview in his office, the Seychelles Minister for Home Affairs and Transport, at the time also holding the Environment and Energy portfolios, Joel Morgan made it plain that his country viewed any pirate attack on ships in their economic exclusion zone as a clear and present danger to the security of his country, many sat up and took notice how the Seychelles were against main stream opinion advocating armed responses and arming ships traversing her waters. Several successful rescue missions later, during which only one hostage was slightly injured, the world apparently had finally wised up and the international maritime community has now also made moves towards having armed guards on high value cruise liners, oil tankers and container ships, though none has yet reached the level of the Seychelles, which again has taken the lead again.
Information from Mahe confirmed that all six ships belonging to the Seychelles Petroleum Company, are now protected by the Seychelles Vessels Protection Detachment, which operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Home Affairs as a special security unit.
According to a report from Victoria a formal demonstration of the skills intense training gave to the crews on board such ships took place earlier in the week, with a mock attack being staged and successfully repelled by the armed guards on the ship. The Seychelles depend on the timely arrival of fuel to propel thermal power stations and keep vehicles, ships and aircraft supplied with diesel, petrol and JetA1 aviation fuel, and the security of the fleet of tankers is paramount with national security overall. Officials reportedly commented that threat levels on the open ocean are still high and having armed security on board now, and the crews trained in emergency responses, has vastly improved the safety of such ships when sailing to and from the main port of Victoria.
International cruise lines too have started to come back to the Seychelles, and in fact are being encouraged by the newly launched Vanilla Island Organization to set up inter island cruises connecting the various members like Seychelles, Mauritius, Madagascar, Mayotte, Comoros, Reunion and the more recent addition of the Maldives, and secure and safe operations are a mandatory requirement to attract passengers to sail across the Indian Ocean with them similar as done in the Caribbean.
‚ÄòCruise traffic is very important for the Seychelles. We proposed that international cruise lines establish itineraries around the Vanilla Islands. But there is also the market for yachts and large sailing ships which so often in the past visited us. During the peak of the Somali piracy problem, only a very few yachts came to visit and when one yacht was hijacked after leaving from Victoria it came to almost a standstill. Now that the international coalition naval forces have restored law and order on the high seas Seychelles again can welcome yachtsmen from everywhere. Our government‚Äôs move to arm our vessels is therefore welcome and if international cruise ships need such assistance the Seychelles is willing to assist‚Äô said a regular source when passing the information on earlier yesterday. Seychelles, again taking the lead and others will undoubtedly follow, sooner or later.