Sri Lanka's navy is monitoring the movement of merchant ships to guard against the threat of attacks by Somali pirates who have been extending their raids further east into the Indian Ocean.
The Sri Lanka Ports Authority chairman Priyath Wickrama said the government was concerned about the threat posed by pirates as the island's ports and shipping sector had been affected by terrorism during the ethnic war.
The increased number of piracy-related incidents have affected the tranquility of the region, he said in a speech at the International Port Security 2011Conference in the Netherlands on September 28.
"Although piracy is not a common feature within the territorial waters of Sri Lanka, the country has developed its national maritime policy to minimise such incidents with the strengthening of the coast guard service and other maritime related security arrangements."
Incidents of sea piracy are not reported in and around Sri Lanka frequently as in the case of the Malacca Straits, Gulf region and in African waters such as near Somalia.
"However, as any sea piracy attack could be extended to a ship plying on any other sea route, the Sri Lankan coast guard service and Sri Lanka Navy are closely monitoring ship movements in and out of the country's territorial waters to arrest any incidents of sea piracy,” Wickrama said.
"The authorities are concerned about all threats of piracy and are taking all possible steps within the country and in co-operation within the region and internationally to ensure free movements of vessels within the territorial waters of Sri Lanka," he said.
Somali pirates have been widening their area of attacks and extending their raids further east into the Indian ocean and even off the west coast of India as foreign navies have stepped up patrols off Somalia.
The International Maritime Bureau has warned that pirate attacks might be extended even further east towards Sri Lanka. (LBO)