November 4 - The International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) has welcomed two important indicators that the shipping industry's intense global lobbying to increase safety at sea is starting to bear fruit.

Ole WikborgIUMI president, speaking in Oslo commented that two recent events have shown that the industry is being listened to on the world stage. He pointed to the British prime minister's surprise announcement that the UK will now allow armed guards on all UK-flagged vessels and the news that West African states are to hold a summit to frame a comprehensive response to piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

Wikborg says: "At last, governments are being stung into taking positive action to put an end to the menace posed by pirates, whether they be from Somalia or elsewhere. Not before time, there is a growing realisation that piracy is severely disrupting and damaging global trade at a time when the fragile world economy can least afford it.

"Above all, there is recognition that piracy is continuing to create a huge humanitarian problem as seafarers are held captive for periods up to a year, are being tortured or ill-treated and even murdered."

He added out that in January 2011, IUMI announced it was up to individual insurers whether to provide cover for ships and operators if private armed guards were employed. The following month, the International Chamber of Shipping, an affiliate member of IUMI, announced it was taking a more neutral position on the issue.

Wikborg said: "Although there is still a clash of views about placing armed security personnel on board for the ship's transit through danger zones, it must not be forgotten that because of defence cuts around Europe there is the prospect of naval assets in the Gulf of Aden being substantially reduced in the near future."