HC Deb 23 October 2000 vol 355 cc56-7W
Mr. Dalyell

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he expects to establish if ship tracking systems are reliable; what assessment he has made of the effect of such systems on the incidence of piracy; and what action he is taking with the International Maritime Organisation against piracy and armed robbery in international waters. [134180]

Mr. Hill

It is a fact that ship-tracking systems do work and serve their primary purpose of establishing the location of ships at sea using satellite technology. I understand that their widespread use can be taken as a good indicator of their reliability. Although my Department is not directly involved in assessing the effectiveness of such systems we have consulted the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) who have actively promoted use of the tracking system called 'Shiploc' as an effective counter piracy measure, particularly in cases where the objective is to steal the ship. This allows shipping companies to monitor their vessels' progress, to know quickly if the ship has a particular difficulty and to track it after an incident. IMB have advised my Department that, in their opinion, the system has deterrent value, although it is difficult to separate the direct benefits of this from those of the other measures which are being implemented to counter the piracy problem. Other ship tracking systems are also available on the market (e.g. Fleet Remote Monitoring System (FROM)). It is not for the Department to promote any individual system, but we ensure that ship owners and operators are made aware of the options in our various contacts with them.

Over the past three years my Department has been active in supporting the International Maritime Organisation's (IMO) initiatives in countering the problem of piracy and armed robbery against ships at sea. These initiatives and actions include: In partnership with the FCO, supporting the IMO counter piracy missions across the world with UK experts and finance in acknowledged piracy hotspots. The UK is chairing an IMO Correspondence Group within the Maritime Safety Committee, which has produced an aide memoire on the procedures for the investigation and prosecution of piracy related incidents. The UK initiated work in IMO to ensure that their Ship Registries have proper procedures in place for registration of ships as a means of preventing hijacking of vessels for fraudulent purposes.