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Ministry considers panic rooms as anti-piracy step

South Korea will require all Korean vessels which go through piracy-prone regions to establish a safety zone inside, and double escorting capacity for its vessels at the Gulf of Aden, the government said Thursday.

The Ministry of Land, Transportation and Maritime Affairs revealed strengthened anti-piracy measures to counter the rising number of its ships being attacked and hijacked by pirates over the past few years.

South Korea’s Navy last week succeeded in rescuing all 21 sailors from an 11,500-ton Korean chemical carrier hijacked by Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea.

Under the latest plan, the government will require all ocean-going vessels to be equipped with a “citadel,” a bullet-proof muster zone inside where sailors can hide themselves.

Food, water and communications facilities can also be kept inside, enabling the crew to survive for at least a week while awaiting rescue. The government is hoping to pass legislation regarding the matter in February, the ministry said.

Korea will also boost its convoying capacity for its ships going through the Gulf of Aden by working closely with India.

The two countries will sign a memorandum of understanding in March, through which they will unite to increase escort capacity for their ships passing through the region, the ministry said.

Currently, Korea and India each operate a naval vessel in the area to protect commercial ships. They are each capable of convoying around 10 ships a week.

The government is also seeking ways to make stationing armed security guards mandatory for ships passing through dangerous areas in the Indian Ocean.

The country will also conduct anti-piracy drills involving both private and government experts four times a year, the ministry said, which is an increase from its current bi-annual drills.

Alongside establishing shelters inside ships and beefing up their convoying capacity, Korea will step up partnerships with international organizations to share information and improve monitoring of pirates.

The list of organizations includes International Maritime Organization, Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia under the United Nations and International Maritime Bureau under International Chamber of Commerce.

By Koh Young-aah (youngaah@heraldcorp.com)
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