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World Maritime Day Parallel Event

Closing remarks by E.E. Mitropoulos, Secretary-General, IMO

October 13, 2011

​Excellencies, Admirals, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

We have almost reached the end of a busy and I would say fruitful day.  We have heard a great deal about the dreadful problem of piracy and how so many are suffering from it – not just those who are directly involved, although their plight is clearly the most intense and painful, but also all those who sustain and suffer the secondary effects, be they financial or operational.

We have heard, too, of the many and varied efforts that are being made, in so many arenas, to combat it. These range from ‘front line’ operations, such as those being carried out with great effect by the combined naval forces operating in the region, to the less obvious, but no less important, work being undertaken to address the complex jurisdictional issues surrounding piracy. Technological innovations to help stave off pirate attacks and efforts to trace, and then interrupt, the flows of illegal money emanating from pirate activities are further examples of what a multi-faceted and complex issue this has become.

This multi-faceted nature of modern-day piracy – in particular, as it presents itself off the coast of Somalia – has been clearly demonstrated in the numerous speeches we heard today, which, with very few and unavoidable instances, did not overlap with each other – a clear indication of the magnitude of the problem we are faced with.  So, while congratulating our hosts for ensuring the services of a galaxy of speakers (whom I thank and congratulate wholeheartedly), I pay tribute to them, the hosts, for covering the thorny issue of piracy so thoroughly and comprehensively.
From all the speeches we heard today, the unbiased conclusion is that no effort should be spared to alleviate the unacceptable situation we find ourselves in these days. Shipping companies must ensure that their ships rigorously apply the IMO guidance and industry-developed best management practices in their entirety, so that, when venturing into the western Indian Ocean region, they comply with all the recommended measures. No ship is invulnerable, in particular those with relatively low freeboards and slow steaming speeds. And Governments need to back up their oft-stated concern over the situation by deploying military and other resources commensurate, in numbers and technology, with the scale of the problem and with a realistic chance of dealing with it effectively.

While IMO has positioned itself in the epicentre of the concerted efforts being made, it cannot alone supply an instant solution to the issue – particularly since, although piracy manifests itself at sea, the roots of the problem are to be found ashore. Nevertheless, through our action plan and other initiatives, and in collaboration with other interested parties, equally determined and committed as ourselves, we feel confident we will be able to make a difference where the problem is being most acutely felt – at sea.

At IMO, the fact that the incidence of pirate attacks, overall, still shows little sign of weakening has only served to strengthen our determination to meet the challenge. 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 too – but, as our World Maritime Day theme clearly suggests, to do so requires a well-devised and coordinated response.
Some success in thwarting pirate attacks can already be claimed, as can be seen from the falling percentage of attacks that prove successful. Nevertheless, as the statistics so bleakly indicate, piracy and armed robbery against ships remain real and ever-present dangers to those who use the seas for peaceful purposes. So long as pirates continue harassing shipping, hijacking ships and seafarers, we are neither proud of, nor content with, the results achieved so far.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude by thanking, once again, the Government of Italy and the Italian Shipowners’ Confederation for hosting the 2011 edition of the World Maritime Day Parallel Event, and for organizing such an insightful and stimulating programme of events. As this seminar has confirmed, much more needs to be done if the ultimate goal of consigning piracy to the realms of history is to be achieved.
Looking ahead, I believe that solutions need to be found in three distinct time horizons. In the immediate term, the aim must be to contain piracy, thwart pirate attacks and punish those responsible for such attacks; in the mid-term, the strategy should be to undermine organized crime gangs that plan and mastermind pirate operations and make it harder for them to engage in, and conduct, such operations; while, the long-term solution should be for the international community to help the people of Somalia to rebuild their country, including establishing law and order conditions such that crime will no longer be a preferred option for several of them.

When I report to the forthcoming Council and Assembly of IMO, I hope I will not be too much off the mark if I say that the outcomes of last month’s intersessional meeting of the Working Group of IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee on Maritime Security and Piracy, with regard to the preparation of recommendations to Governments on the use of Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel, were favourably noted by this seminar – recommendations, which should be taken into account by Governments when deciding on ad-hoc measures and when developing policies relating to the employment of Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel on board ships in the high risk areas; and that, therefore, appropriate action should be taken by the MSC to recommend early implementation of the said recommendations.
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.

And with these words, I thank you for your participation and contribution to this meeting and look forward to seeing you tomorrow in Civitavecchia where the Parallel Event will conclude.  I hope when we meet again in London, we will be able to announce in which country and town next year’s parallel event will take place.  The seminar is closed.
Thank you.