At the end of a year in which the World Maritime Day theme of “Piracy: orchestrating the response” has been central to the work of IMO, the Organization can look back on 12 months of relatively good progress that have laid the foundations for cautious optimism about the future.
Recently compiled statistics show that the number of ships and seafarers held captive by Somali pirates have reduced from a peak of 33 and 733 in February to 13 and 265 respectively, at the beginning of December. The number of reported attacks has also declined from a high of 45 per month in January 2011 to 14 for the month of November 2011; and the proportion of successful attacks has been cut from 20 per cent in January 2011 to just 7 per cent in November 2011.
Throughout 2011, IMO engaged at the political level (mainly through the UN Security Council) to bring about a solution to the piracy problem and thus facilitate and expedite the release of seafarers and any other persons held hostage. In addition, the Organization intensified its work to strengthen the protection of persons (seafarers, fisherman and passengers), ships and cargoes in piracy-infested areas and also preserve the integrity of shipping lanes of strategic importance and significance, such as the Gulf of Aden.
Improvements were made to the accessibility and distribution of IMO guidelines and industry best management practice guidance; steps were taken to ensure that ships’ crews are aware of how to access naval protection and implement effectively the preventive, evasive and defensive measures recommended by IMO and the industry. The Organization also addressed the issue of carriage of privately contracted armed security personnel aboard ships and developed guidelines on the subject, involving, in this particular instance, flag, port and coastal States.
IMO helped promote greater levels of coordination among navies, and further co-operation between and among States, regions and organizations. Information-sharing, the coordination of military and civil efforts and the development and implementation of regional initiatives, such as the IMO-led Djibouti Code of Conduct, were at the heart of the Organization’s work. The establishment of information sharing centres in Dar es Salaam, Mombasa and Sana’a and the laying of the foundation stone of the building set to house a regional training centre in Djibouti were significant, tangible steps towards building regional capability to counteract pirate activities.
Working with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and other agencies, IMO also undertook initiatives to build the capacity of States, in piracy affected regions and elsewhere, to deter, interdict and bring to justice those who commit acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships, working to enhance maritime law enforcement and the safety of life at sea. Helping States develop their maritime law enforcement capacities and protect their maritime resources was another key element of IMO’s work during 2011.
During the year, IMO maintained close co-operation with the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) and communicated with the Executive Head of the World Food Programme (WFP) concerning the potential for chartering bigger, faster ships to deliver food aid to Somalia, and shortening the distances they are required to run through pirate-infested waters.
According to IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, “The work the Organization has done to promote an orchestrated response to piracy during 2011 has been wide-ranging and far-reaching and the statistics suggest that it is beginning to have a positive effect. Although we should welcome the good news of the falling numbers of ships and seafarers falling in the hands of pirates (which allows us to claim that the outgoing year was not wasted), there is still a lot of work to be done: even one seafarer at the hands of pirates, is one too many. It is for this reason that we cannot become complacent, and should be particularly concerned about signs that piracy and armed robbery may be beginning to spread to other parts of the world, in particular to west Africa.”
At the start of 2011, IMO adopted an anti-piracy action plan with six specific objectives, namely:
1. Increase pressure at the political level to secure the release of all hostages being held by pirates;
2. Review and improve the IMO guidelines to Administrations and seafarers and promote compliance with industry best management practices and the recommended preventive, evasive and defensive measures ships should follow;
3. Promote greater levels of support from, and coordination with, navies;
4. Promote anti-piracy coordination and co-operation procedures between and among States, regions, organizations and industry;
5. Assist States to build capacity in pirate‑infested regions of the world, and elsewhere, to deter, interdict and bring to justice those who commit acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships.
6. Provide care for those attacked or hijacked by pirates and for their families.
Among the multitude of activities successfully undertaken against each of these objectives, several highlights stand out:
Against objective 1:
· A high-profile event to launch the year’s theme and action plan was organized. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Executive Heads of the UNODC and the WFP, along with heads of several shipping industry and seafarers’ organizations were present to lend their support to the initiative.
· IMO contributed to the UN Secretary-General’s report on piracy off Somalia, and the UN Security Council noted with appreciation the efforts of the IMO and invited IMO to continue its contribution to prevent and suppress piracy (resolution S/RES 2020 (2011)).
· Throughout the year, IMO actively facilitated and participated in the work of the CGPCS.
· The IMO Assembly adopted a resolution (A.1044(27)) on piracy and armed robbery against ships in waters off the coast of Somalia in which, among other things, it expressed deep sympathy for the loss of seafarers, while in captivity; for their plight while held hostage in appalling conditions, often for long periods of time; and for their families, and appealed to all relevant parties, to take action, within the provisions of international law, to ensure that any hijacked ships, seafarers serving on them and any other persons on board such ships are immediately and unconditionally released and that no harm is caused to them.
Against objective 2:
· A circular letter (No.3164) was issued to inform all IMO Members, the United Nations and specialized agencies, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations in consultative status with IMO that naval forces operating in the region off the coast of Somalia had reported an unacceptably high proportion of ships transiting the Gulf of Aden and western Indian Ocean were not registered with the appropriate authorities, showed no visible deterrent measures and were not acting on navigational warnings to shipping promulgating details of pirate attacks and suspect vessels.
· The IMO Secretary-General sent letters to Ministers of Transport and other relevant Ministers of IMO Council Members and other States with significant shipping interests drawing their attention to the need to implement fully the IMO guidelines including the Best Management Practices and Circular letter No.3164 and to raise his concerns at the apparently low level of reported compliance with their recommendations.
· IMO developed model courses for Ship Security Officers and seafarers on anti-piracy practices.
· The IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) adopted a resolution (MSC.324(89)) on the Implementation of Best Management Practice Guidance; and approved Interim Guidance to shipowners, ship operators, shipmasters and flag States on the use of privately contracted armed security personnel on board ships in the high risk area.
· Issues related to the embarkation and disembarkation of privately contracted armed security personnel, their firearms, ammunition and security-related equipment were considered by the IMO Facilitation Committee and a draft questionnaire on port and coastal state requirements related to the issue was developed. IMO has collaborated with the World Customs Organization on these issues.
· The IMO Assembly adopted a resolution (A.1044(27)) on piracy and armed robbery against ships in waters off the coast of Somalia which, among other things, strongly urges Governments to ensure that ships entitled to fly their flag comply with the preventive, evasive and defensive measures detailed in the best management practice guidance. It also urges Governments to decide, taking into account the interim recommendations and guidance developed by the Organization, as a matter of national policy, whether ships entitled to fly their flag should be authorized to carry privately contracted armed security personnel and, if so, under which conditions.
Against objective 3:
· In February, IMO convened a meeting at IMO Headquarters to promote greater levels of support from, and coordination with, navies. Throughout the year, IMO participated in several civil/military fora, including the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) process through which anti-piracy operations are coordinated.
· In May, IMO briefed Chiefs of European navies, seeking further support for IMO initiatives to counter piracy, especially in west Africa. Further, the Secretary-General met the operation commander of EUNAVFOR Operation Atalanta.
· The three information sharing centres (ISCs) being funded by IMO participated in counter-piracy exercise Cutlass Express to enhance interoperability as well as civil/military cooperation.
· IMO participated in a number of workshops on piracy including those conducted jointly with the NATO Shipping Centre in Hamburg and the ReCAAP-ISC Singapore Piracy and Sea Robbery Conference in Singapore.
· The application of the Long Range Information and Tracking (LRIT) system to anti-piracy activities was and remains the subject of continuing IMO-led liaison with all concerned stakeholders.
· IMO Concluded agreements with the NATO Shipping Centre and the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations office in Dubai (UKMTO) to allow transmission of piracy reports over the ISC network.
· IMO Participated in a range of meetings and briefings with military, industry and other officials on various topics including piracy reporting and liaison.
Against objective 4:
· On-going development of a Djibouti Code regional information sharing network of National Focal Points (NFPs) in every Djibouti Code signatory State.
· Reinvigoration of the "Kampala Process" in co‑operation with United Nations Political Office for Somalia.
· IMO Secretary-General briefed UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination.
· Joint workshop between the three ISCs, ReCAAP and IMO held in Singapore to initiate piracy information exchange.
· MSC approved guidelines to assist in the investigation of crimes of piracy and armed robbery against ships.
· IMO liaised with NATO for future possibility of collaboration on operational training for maritime law-enforcement forces from the Djibouti Code of Conduct States.
· IMO participated in a series of meetings, fora and conferences aimed at promoting anti-piracy co-operation and coordination.
· The building work on the IMO Djibouti Regional Training Centre commenced.
· IMO participated in a UN assessment mission to examine the scope of the threat of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, as well as the capacity of Benin and of the West African sub-region as a whole, to ensure maritime safety and security in that region.
Against objective 5:
· On-going development of the Djibouti Regional Training Centre (DRTC).
· Sana'a ISC equipped and operational.
· Mombasa MRCC became operational as a counter-piracy ISC.
· Dar es Salaam SRSC became operational as a counter-piracy ISC.
· On-going review of existing national legislation of Djibouti Code signatory States. Development of model legislation and regulations. Close co-operation with UNODC, UN Department of Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea and the CGPCS.
· Legal workshop held in conjunction with UNODC in Djibouti.
· IMO assisted EU to run training courses at the Interim Centre in Djibouti.
· A joint IMO/UNODC project to draft legislation for the Somaliland coast guard was initiated.
· Extensive series of workshops and training courses with Governments and their agencies undertaken in the region.
Against objective 6:
· Continuing engagement with the CGPCS: Seamen's Church Institute Post-Piracy Care for Seafarers guidance promulgated by industry organizations and by EUNAVFOR.
· IMO Secretary-General wrote to Mr. Tadateru Konoé, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, seeking support for assistance with the care of seafarers, particularly in post hostage situations.
· The IMO Assembly adopted a resolution (A.1044(27)) on piracy and armed robbery against ships in waters off the coast of Somalia which, among other things, strongly urges Governments to encourage owners and operators of ships entitled to fly their flag to fully consider the provision of post-traumatic care for seafarers attacked or held hostage by pirates, and for their families.
IMO – the International Maritime Organization – is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.
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