Launch of World Maritime Day theme for 2011
“Piracy: orchestrating the response”
3 February 2011
Speech by Efthimios E. Mitropoulos,
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization
Secretary-General, Excellencies, Executive Heads of WFP and UNODC, President of the IMO Assembly, Commissioner, Admirals, Secretary-General Emeritus, heads and representatives of international shipping organizations, media representatives, my Lords, ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning and welcome to IMO.
In the past 12 months alone, there have been 286 piracy-related incidents off the coast of Somalia. They have resulted in 67 hijacked ships, with 1130 seafarers on board – whilst, at present, 714 seafarers are being held for ransom on board 30 ships scattered at various points of the country’s extensive coastline.
Piracy and kidnapping have blighted the maritime community for too long and it is seafarers who bear the brunt. And while we condemn and deplore any act of piracy, as the Security Council has done in several resolutions, we were appalled by yesterday’s news that pirates had executed, apparently in cold blood, a seafarer on the “Beluga Nomination”, a ship which had been attacked and hijacked last month, 390 miles off the Seychelles. And so it was very much with seafarers in mind that, last year, the IMO Council decided that the 2011 World Maritime Day theme should be “Piracy: orchestrating the response”.
Today marks the formal launch of this theme, along with the action plan we have devised to help achieve the objectives we have set. And we are honoured that the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, has come to do just that. The fact that this is the second time in three years that the Secretary-General is visiting IMO is confirmation of his interest in maritime affairs and his concern over the unacceptable incidence of modern-day piracy – an unlawful act, which, further to the trauma it causes to seafarers and their families, is estimated, in accordance with a recent study reported by Chatham House, to cost the world economy between 7bn and 12bn US dollars per year, as a result of the disruption it effects on shipping services and international trade.
Also joining us today are Ms Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme; Mr. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime; Mr. Robert Lorenz-Meyer, President of BIMCO, representing the shipping industry; and Mr. David Cockroft, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, representing the seafarers.
Since we first drew the attention of the Security Council to the problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia, in November 2005, the Secretary-General has been in the vanguard of efforts to increase awareness of the problem and the need to find a solution to it. So, sincere thanks are due to Mr. Ban for his personal commitment to the common cause and for the interest he has shown, and continues to show, on an issue of grave concern to the maritime community. This is manifested in many ways, not least through the inclusion of a section on piracy in his regular reports to the Security Council on Somalia; his leadership role in the formulation and adoption of several Security Council resolutions on piracy off the coast of Somalia; and his recent appointment of a Special Adviser on Legal Issues Related to Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. Thank you, Secretary-General.
I should also like to thank all the other panellists (especially, Ms Sheeran and Ambassador Fedotov) for coming here today (from Rome and Vienna, respectively). Their presence serves not only to reinforce our choice of theme for 2011 but also gives us hope that, with our collective strength and determination, we can achieve the objectives we have set and make some genuine inroads into what, to date, has been an escalating problem of global concern. Our thanks to them and the organizations they represent are profound.
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 by, and with the co-operation and support of, the littoral States, States using the Straits and the industry, we have been able to help significantly reduce piracy in those regions.
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 to good effect in the current arena as well, but to do so requires a well orchestrated 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 during 2011 and beyond, if necessary.
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 put some flesh on these bones. 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 seafarers and any other persons held hostage by pirates.
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 rigorous implementation of the International Safety Management Code and the International Ships and Port Facility Code; through improvements to, and wider promulgation of, the IMO and industry best management practice guidance; through advice to ships’ crews about how to access naval vessels deployed in the region and also how to best implement the preventive, evasive and defensive measures recommended by IMO and the industry; and through promoting even greater levels of coordination among navies, above and beyond the one that characterizes the co-operation among the naval vessels from so many countries that have assembled in the same region in a strong demonstration of solidarity for the same good cause. In achieving this, the United Nations could be instrumental and we turn to you, Secretary-General, for endorsement, leadership and guidance.
During 2011, we intend to promote further co-operation between and among States, regions and organizations to prevent and reduce attacks on ships through information-sharing; coordination of military and civil efforts; and the development and implementation of regional initiatives, such as the IMO-led Djibouti Code of Conduct.
We will also help infrastructure and capacity building in States lying in regions of the world affected by pirates to deter, interdict and bring to justice the perpetrators of such acts, thereby enhancing maritime law enforcement and the safety of life at sea. This will also help tackle the root causes of piracy, through the provision of assistance to States for the development of their maritime law enforcement capabilities and the protection of their marine resources.
Specifically, in the case of Somalia, we intend to contribute, in any way possible (including through the establishment of a coastal monitoring and law-enforcement force) to the creation of a state of stability at both sides of the Horn of Africa coastline that will, in due course, have a beneficial impact on the overall situation piracy-wise.
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 an adequate infrastructure, which, in turn, will enable them to conduct effective counter-piracy operations.
However, 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 – and, as long as pirates continue harassing shipping; endangering the critical delivery of humanitarian aid carried by ships chartered by the World Food Programme; and hijacking ships and seafarers, 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 and galvanize a broader, global response to modern-day piracy. More needs to be done, including the tracing of money and 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 this morning provides encouragement and support for what we are doing and what we intend to do – 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.
It is my great pleasure now to invite the Secretary-General to address us. He will be followed to the floor by Ms Josette Sheeran, Mr. Yury Fedotov, Mr. Robert Lorenz-Meyer and Mr. David Cockroft in that order.