x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

'Refresher course on procedure is required'

A refresher course for fishermen on how to correctly approach a military vessel is being considered.

DUBAI // A refresher course for fishermen on how to correctly approach a military vessel is being considered.

The Dubai Fishermen's Cooperative Association says it is looking at a campaign for the emirate's fishing community to make working in the Arabian Gulf safer.

Mohammed Al Marri, the association's chairman, said most Emirati fishermen knew how to behave around military vessels in the Arabian Gulf.

"People going to the sea usually have a background in the police or army or coastguard," Mr Al Marri said.

"They know the rules and are aware that they have to stay far away and cross from behind.

"We see navy ships all the time, from the days of the Iraq war. But we must be more careful now. We will sit and educate them [fishermen] on how to respond."

Nagendran Dharmar, an Indian fisherman who has sailed off Dubai for the past five years, said he and his crewmates always recognised military ships.

"We usually see the flags and know which country the ship is from," Mr Dharmar said. "If we get close, they usually blare a horn and we have to slow down and turn away, or wait for them to go."

Naval officers also need training to help them better identify boats that could be a threat, says Theodore Karasik, the director of research and development at the international security consultancy Inegma.

"Countries throughout the region should have a widespread information campaign so sailors are fully informed about what to avoid," said Mr Karasik.

"It should be a campaign in multiple languages on the dos and don'ts of traversing the Gulf. This is a maritime security issue that needs to be addressed before more lives are lost."

The head of a private security company in Dubai, who did not want to be identified, said: "An attack by a speedboat off Jebel Ali is clearly implausible.

"The US vessel should have been taking its own practical steps to avoid this by launching its own craft to approach the vessel."

A shipping industry authority, who also preferred to remain anonymous, said the onus fell on the military and fishermen, but as a rule of thumb, fishing boats should not approach navy vessels.

"It's a simple rule to follow: never approach any naval ships," he said. "But there is an obligation on the part of the navy to know what kind of ships trade in the area, what a fishing vessel looks like.

"There is an obligation to prevent this on both sides."