Coinciding with anniversary of 26/11 terrorist attack at Mumbai, Global Maritime Safety And Anti-Piracy Conference was organized by Gujarat National Law University at Ahmedabad on 26 th and 27 th November, 2011. Delegates from about 30 countries attended the Conference, with cooperation from Government of India and the UNO, especially its International Maritime Organisation. Shri Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat inaugurated the Conference.
There were discussions on numerous papers, video and power-point presentations by delegates of different countries. These related mostly to anti-piracy operations and joint measures for preventing piracy, especially in Somalia coast and the Horn of Africa and the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, the so-called "choke-points" causing disruption of vital supply-chains in world economy- e.g . carriage of oil, minerals, agricultural produce, and industrial raw materials and finished products.
According to an estimate, international marine transportation, which involves 90% of world's trade, is losing 13 to 16 billion dollars per year due to piracy and other terrorist acts at sea. The matter has assumed such great urgency that in a single year, 2008, there were as many as five Resolutions of the UN Security Council calling for international cooperation for suppressing maritime piracy and terrorism; and another India-sponsored Resolution has been recently adopted on 24-10-2011 in the same vein.
An Indian maritime lawyer" from Odisha has mooted some seminal and originative proposals at the Conference in his paper entitled "Piracy-The Law, Issues and Challenges". He has analyzed the deficiencies in existing international law relating to piracy and terrorism at sea and underscored the need for a paradigm shift in the legal framework. In essence he has proposed a network of international criminal courts under the auspices of the UNO to deal with transnational crimes including piracy and acts of terrorism involving marine transport; and International Penal Code defining the transnational crimes; an International Criminal Procedure Code; and an independent international prosecuting agency with which all nations shall cooperate and over which no nation can exercise control. The system is to be funded by an international fund created by the UNO with equitable contributions from all nations, shipping and airline industries and insurance companies and mercantile marine community. The costs of prosecuting transnational offenders, usually too heavy and unaffordable by poorer countries, could be met out of the proposed fund; so also the costs of imprisonment. Such a system would obviate the quagmir of disparate, often conflicting, domestic criminal laws of different countries and complex of extradition treaties. The lawyer contends that whereas, under private international law, there are definite rules for determining choice of law applicable to international contracts and torts, there are no such rules in criminal matters. Far too long, the bugbear of sovereignty has stood in the way of internationally prosecuting transnational offenders-not only pirates and maritime terrorists but also criminals trafficking in arms, drugs and human beings, and those indulging in organized smuggling, dumping of hazardous wastes, and money-laundering. It was submitted that some abridgment of sovereignty on this score is jurisprudentially sound and conducive to international public order. Hitherto, all UN Conventions confer jurisdictions complementary to national jurisdictions and defer to national courts and a case cannot be entertained if a competent national court is in seisin of it or capable of being in seisin of it. He suggested that it is no use merely defining transnational crimes and leaving enforcement to diverse national legal systems at their expense. Worse, nation-States make their own domestic laws on transnational crimes within their disparate legal systems; any given case would give rise to intractable choice of law problems and prolong litigation for years.