“Piracy: Orchestrating the response”: Workshop on piracy during STW 42
26 January 2011
Speech by Efthimios E. Mitropoulos,
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization
Good morning all and welcome to IMO and to this workshop to kick start the action plan to keep piracy at bay. A special welcome and a big “thank you” to those who have joined us here today to speak and interact with you on the subject matter.
Let me start with some statistics, which, I am sure you will agree, make very unpleasant reading:
In 2010, 253 ships were attacked by pirates resulting in 61 ships hijacked and 1072 seafarers taken hostage;
To date, 30 ships and 730 seafarers are in the hands of pirates, of which 7 ships, totalling 109 seafarers, were hijacked since the beginning of the year.
The average length of hijacking has increased to over four months with mother ships recently being used during the monsoon period in the NW Indian Ocean, radically changing the dynamics and presenting a more complex task for navies to carry out over more extensive sea areas.
Piracy and kidnapping have blighted the maritime community for too long now, and it is seafarers who bear the brunt. And so it was very much with seafarers, and those who sail in piracy-affected areas in mind that the IMO Council decided that this year’s World Maritime Day theme should be “Piracy: orchestrating the response”.
IMO has been dealing with piracy issues for the last thirty years. In the early 1980s, it was the Gulf of Guinea that first attracted our attention, while, in the late 1990s and the early part of this century, the focus was on the then hot-spots of the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. Through a series of measures, developed and implemented with the strong and much appreciated co-operation of the littoral States and the support of the industry, we have been able to help significantly reduce piracy in those parts of the world.
However, the problem has lately manifested itself in other parts of the world, most notably – but not exclusively – off the coast of Somalia, in the Gulf of Aden and the wider Indian Ocean. We believe that we can use the experience gained and the successes achieved in reducing piracy elsewhere in the world to good effect in the current arena, but to do so requires an orchestrated and coordinated response.
We have, therefore, developed, in co-operation with the shipping industry, seafaring representative organizations and other stakeholders, an action plan to maintain and, indeed, strengthen our focus on anti-piracy endeavours of all kinds and to facilitate a broader, global effort. We have identified six prime objectives that we hope all stakeholders will espouse and take action on during 2011 and beyond, if necessary. They are:
- one: to increase pressure at the political level to secure the release of all hostages being held by pirates;
- two: to 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;
- three: to promote greater levels of support from, and coordination with, navies;
- four: to promote anti-piracy coordination and co-operation procedures between and among States, regions, organizations and industry;
- five: to assist States to build capacity in piracy-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; and
- six: to provide care, during the post-traumatic period, for those attacked or hijacked by pirates and for their families.
Let me be a little bit more specific. Underlying our efforts to achieve these objectives will be the need to engage at the political level to bring about a solution to the Somali problem and thus facilitate and expedite the release of the seafarers and any other persons held hostage. While the process to solve Somalia’s political problem and create conditions of stability in the country may be long and the solution may not be around the corner, this is a matter for the United Nations to pursue and neither IMO nor the maritime community have any substantive role to play in it.
Calling, however, the world’s attention to the unacceptable plight of the innocent victims of pirates can help to create the momentum necessary for action to be taken to hasten their release.
In the meantime, there should be no respite in our efforts to strengthen the protection of persons, ships and cargoes in piracy-infested areas (at the same time preserving the integrity of shipping lanes of strategic importance and significance, such as the Gulf of Aden) through improvements to the accessibility and distribution of IMO guidelines and industry best management practice guidance; ensuring that ships’ crews are aware of how to access the available naval protection and implement effectively the preventive, evasive and defensive measures recommended by IMO and the industry; at the same time, promoting even greater levels of coordination among navies, above and beyond the unprecedented degree of co-operation that has already characterized the international naval response.
During 2011, we intend to promote further co-operation between and among States, regions and organizations in reducing the risk of attacks on ships through information-sharing; coordination of military and civil efforts; and development and implementation of regional initiatives, such as the IMO-led Djibouti Code of Conduct.
We will also look to help build the capacity of States, in affected regions of the world and elsewhere, to deter, interdict and bring to justice those who commit acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships, thereby enhancing maritime law enforcement and the safety of life at sea. This will, we believe, also help tackle the root causes of piracy, through the provision of assistance to States for the development of their maritime law enforcement capacities and the protection of their maritime resources.
Specifically, in the case of Somalia, we intend to contribute, in any way possible (including through the potential development of a coastal monitoring and law-enforcement force) to its moving to a state of stability that will, in due course, have a beneficial impact on the overall situation.
And we will work with Governments and the industry to ensure that released seafarers and their families receive care during the post-traumatic period.
There is already good progress on which to build. The establishment, within the context of a UN Security Council resolution, of the Contact Group on Piracy off the coast of Somalia, has done much to promote our shared agenda for improved coordination amongst States, industry and organizations. And, through the Djibouti Code of Conduct, we are establishing information-sharing centres in Yemen, Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania, as well as a regional training centre in Djibouti. In partnership with the UNODC, we are helping regional States to develop the legal framework necessary to prosecute pirates – an objective also pursued by the Contact Group. We will continue to give this initiative the highest priority with the aim of assisting States in the region to build and develop their own, effective counter-piracy infrastructure and operations.
However, as the statistics so bleakly indicate, piracy and armed robbery against ships remain real and ever-present dangers to shipping – and, as long as pirates continue hijacking ships and seafarers and harassing shipping (at an annual cost to the world economy between 12 bn and 16 bn US dollars, in accordance with a recent Chatham House study), we are neither proud of, nor content with, the results achieved so far.
This year, we are resolved to redouble our efforts and, in so doing, generate a broader, global response to modern-day piracy. More needs to be done, by us and others, including the imposition of sanctions on the proceeds derived from hijacked ships, if the ultimate goal of consigning piracy to the realms of history is to be achieved. We hope that our choice of the theme for 2011 will provide an appropriate rallying point around which all those who can make a difference can focus their efforts.
Your presence here today demonstrates your concern about the unacceptable provocation modern piracy poses to international law and order and your interest to see it curbed – and I thank you for that.
In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers are with those seafarers, who, at present, are in the hands of pirates. May they all be released unharmed and returned to their families soon.