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Romanian Danube Section is a Hot Spot

To inland shippers, navigating the Danube in Romania may be a gripping experience. The steady increase in piracy incidents spreads unease among freighters

Pirates have been reported to attack vessels along the Danube section in Romania. Inland freighters, especially those operating under foreign flags, are increasingly under risk of falling victim to pirates when casting anchor in one of the ports alongside the Cernavoda Canal. This naturally spreads growing unease among inland freighters and calls for political intervention.

Over the past few months, the Danube in Romania has been repeatedly haunted by pirates. And the most notorious stretch, as the Yugoslav inland shipping company JRB knows from experience, is the one between the Romanian border and the Cernavoda Canal. Several of their cargo ships were captured in this area in recent months. The common strategy behind these attacks is one where seemingly friendly fishermen offering their merchandise to passing foreign ships “cooperate” with raiders that enter the freighter from the other side and raid the ship of what they can get a hold of.

A cargo ship usually has plenty to offer: the cash register or safe deposit, electronic equipment, the crew’s personal belongings, furniture, kitchen supplies, as well as a number of other movables. A JRP manager, drawing on his own experience, reports that pirates usually take along whatever they can get.

When the crew finally call the police, it may take several hours until the latter eventually appear on the scene and take charge of the matter. Ships sailing under foreign flag are therefore urgently recommended to navigate the Danube section in Romania including the Cernavoda Canal without stopping once and to be very cautious.

“The smaller ports are a big risk for both crew and cargo,” says Marcus Mützel, chief executive of the German shipping company Gebrüder Väth in Würzburg. He confirms the information obtained from JRB that the Romanian Danube section should be navigated only with extreme caution.

The area alongside the Romanian-Bulgarian border is reportedly less adventurous, with border patrol services also contributing to more safety in shipping. Gebrüder Väth have already gathered information on this worrisome issue and forwarded it to Bundesverband der Deutschen Binnenschifffahrt (BDB) – the German association for inland waterway navigation – urging them to take steps against these piracy incidents.

“We have forwarded the reports from Gebrüder Väth to the Ministries of Transport and Foreign Affairs in Berlin and asked them for intervention in Romania,” says BDB chief executive Jörg Rusche in his interview with aqua press. Mützel even goes as far as denouncing the small ports in the catchment area of the Cernavoda Canal as “extremely unsafe”.

The fact that ropes and other useful objects are stolen from ships going east also in other countries, such as Serbia, is something the inland shipping companies meanwhile take for granted. But when the ship crews are physically attacked and end up in hospital, something needs to be done! It is certainly not enough to make only Romania’s Black Sea ports, and here above all Constanta, safe. The German embassy in Bucharest has already announced that they will seek to ask the Romanian authorities to come up with procedural guidelines for a better protection of Danube ship crews and cargos in the future.
(Source: aqua press Int. 3/2006, Josef Müller (Josef Müller is a freelance journalist who writes and reports for the trade journal Verkehr (Bohmann Verlag). Internet: www.verkehr.co.at))

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