IMO Assembly calls for action on piracy off Somalia

United Nations Security Council has urged Member States to use naval vessels and military aircraft in the fight against piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia

The 24th session of the IMO Assembly in November-December 2005 adopted a resolution on Piracy and armed robbery against ships in waters off the coast of Somalia.

The resolution was submitted to the Assembly at the recommendation of IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos following its approval, in principle, at the meeting of the IMO Council which preceded the Assembly.

The resolution condemns and deplores all acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships and appeals to all parties, which may be able to assist, to take action, within the provisions of international law, to ensure that all acts or attempted acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships are terminated forthwith; any plans for committing such acts are abandoned; and any hijacked ships are immediately and unconditionally released and that no harm is caused to seafarers serving in them.

The resolution authorizes the IMO Secretary-General to submit the resolution to the Secretary-General of the United Nations for consideration and any further action he may deem appropriate, including bringing the matter to the attention of the Security Council, taking into account regional co-ordination efforts.

The IMO Secretary-General is also requested to continue monitoring the situation and to report to the IMO Council on developments; to establish and maintain co-operation with the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia; and to consult with interested Governments and organizations to discuss providing technical assistance to Somalia and nearby coastal States to address the problem. This includes taking into account the outcome of the sub regional seminar on piracy and armed robbery against ships and maritime security held in Sana'a, Yemen from 9 to 13 April 2005. A follow-up to this seminar is due to be held in Oman in January 2006.

The resolution respects fully the sovereignty, sovereign rights, jurisdiction and territorial integrity of Somalia and the relevant provisions of international law, in particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Governments are strongly urged to increase their efforts to prevent and suppress acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships and, in particular, to co-operate with other Governments and international organizations in relation to acts occurring or likely to occur in the waters off the coast of Somalia.

Governments are also strongly urged to:

  issue advice and guidance on any measures or actions they may need to take when they are under attack, or threat of attack, whilst sailing in waters off the coast of Somalia;
  encourage ships to ensure that information on attempted attacks or on committed acts of piracy or armed robbery whilst sailing in waters off the coast of Somalia is promptly conveyed to the nearby coastal States and to the nearest most appropriate Rescue Co-ordination Centre;
  provide a point of contact through which ships entitled to fly their flag may request advice or assistance when sailing in waters off the coast of Somalia and to which such ships can report any security concerns about other ships, movements or communications in the area;
  bring to the attention of the IMO Secretary-General information on attempted attacks or on committed acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships whilst sailing in waters off the coast of Somalia so as to enable him to promptly convey such information to the other Member Governments for their consideration and any action they may deem fit under the prevailing circumstances;
  encourage ships to implement expeditiously, for the ship's protection and for the protection of other ships in the vicinity, any measure or advice the nearby coastal States or any other State or competent authority may have provided;
  establish, as necessary, plans and procedures to assist owners, managers and operators of ships in the speedy resolution of hijacking cases occurring in the waters off the coast of Somalia; and
  investigate all acts or attempted acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships entitled to fly their flag occurring in the waters off the coast of Somalia and to report to IMO any pertinent information.

The resolution also requests the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia to bring the resolution to the attention of the Transitional Federal Assembly, requesting it to initiate appropriate actions suitable to prevent and suppress acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships originating from within Somalia. It requests the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia to bring the resolution to the attention of all other parties concerned in Somalia and seek from them the immediate termination of all acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships sailing in waters off the coast of Somalia.

The IMO Assembly also noted the United Nations World Food Programme's concerns that the current situation is having a negative impact on the prompt and effective delivery of food aid and of other humanitarian assistance to Somalia and poses a serious threat to the health and well-being of the Somali people.

Background

IMO initiatives to counter piracy and armed robbery at sea
IMO is implementing an anti-piracy project, a long-term project which began in 1998. Phase one consisted of a number of regional seminars and workshops attended by Government representatives from countries in piracy-infested areas of the world; while phase two consisted of a number of evaluation and assessment missions to different regions. IMO's aim has been to foster the development of regional agreements on implementation of counter piracy measures.

The Regional Co-operation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia (RECAAP), which was concluded in November 2004 by 16 countries in Asia, and includes the RECAAP Information Sharing Centre (ISC) for facilitating the sharing of piracy-related information, is a good example of successful regional co-operation which IMO seeks to replicate elsewhere.

More recently, a programme of sub-regional meetings was initiated to promote regional action to address piracy and armed robbery against ships in the wider context of maritime security.

The first of these was held in Sana'a, Yemen in April 2005 for States in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden areas, with a follow-up event planned for Oman in January 2006.


The meeting on the Straits of Malacca and Singapore: Enhancing Safety, Security and Environmental Protection, held in Jakarta, Indonesia in September 2005 also addressed the issues of piracy and armed robbery against ships and a follow-on meeting will take place in Malaysia in 2006.

Further initiatives under this programme are scheduled for the Caribbean, South Asia, Asia Pacific and West and Central Africa in early 2006. Missions to follow up these events and meetings in other regions will commence later in the year.

To assist in anti-piracy measures, IMO issues reports on piracy and armed robbery against ships submitted by Member Governments and international organizations. The reports, which include names and descriptions of ships attacked, position and time of attack, consequences to the crew, ship or cargo and actions taken by the crew and coastal authorities, are now circulated monthly, with quarterly and annual summaries.

IMO has issued Guidance to shipowners and ship operators, shipmasters and crews on preventing and suppressing acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships and Recommendations to Governments for preventing and suppressing piracy and armed robbery against ships.

Maritime security regime
SOLAS Chapter XI-2 on Special measures to enhance maritime security in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, which entered into force in July 2004, provide also an array of measures which contribute to the fight against piracy and armed robbery against ships.

Briefing 48, 24 November 2005