Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia - Plenary Session

Delivered by video message

IMO Secretary-General’s intervention for the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.
United Nations, New York, United States
As the Secretary-General of IMO, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this plenary session of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia by video.  This is an important meeting, not least because it will shape the future of the Contact Group, a matter of interest to my Organization.  Regrettably, as today is also the opening day of the Maritime Safety Committee, I am not able to participate in your meeting.

IMO welcomed the creation of the CGPCS in 2009 as an informal mechanism to meet the challenges of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the waters off the coast of Somalia and has been fully engaged ever since.

The IMO Secretariat participated in plenary sessions of the CGPCS as a member organization.  We participated as a member of the board of the International Trust Fund.  The IMO Secretariat supported and hosted meetings of Working Group 1 on capacity building and civil/military cooperation as these were issues already considered at IMO through the Djibouti Code of Conduct and the civil/military cooperation meetings held at IMO in 2008; we supported and hosted meetings of Working Group 3 on development of guidance to seafarers; and we participated in meetings of the other Working Groups. 

Not only did we recognise the value of the Contact Group as a means for dealing with the issue of Somalia-based piracy at the highest level within the United Nations and the international community; we also recognized the specific contributions of the working groups within their remits – for example Working Group 2’s work on developing legal toolkits and Working Group 3’s work on the drafting of the guidance for private maritime security companies.
In the five years since the formation of the Contact Group, the situation has changed.  The current levels of pirate activity indicate that the problem seems to be contained, at least for the time being; however the underlying situation in Somalia has not been resolved.

IMO and the industry group have developed a comprehensive range of guidance on self-protection by ships; military cooperation and coordination through the SHADE process are effective; civil-military cooperation (LRIT, situational awareness, reporting, use of the IRTC – the transit corridor, etc.) is well established; and the Djibouti Code of Conduct is well established as the regional response. 

Looking to the way forward, the IMO Secretariat welcomes the marked reduction in the number of successful attacks against merchant ships over the last two years.  Disruption by warships, better application of IMO guidance and best management practices (including the use of armed guards, both military and civilian), and better maritime situational awareness have all contributed to bringing about the current situation at sea, at least at the present time.

With respect to the development of a range of guidance to protect seafarers and shipping, civil/military cooperation and increasing capacity to arrest and prosecute suspected pirates in accordance with the rule of law, we should take pride in our contributions.

However, it is not the time to become complacent at all.  While we are also aware that despite gradually increasing stability and law enforcement capability ashore in Somalia, the underlying conditions fuelling piracy have not changed, pirate action groups are still active and there are an estimated 50 seafarers and fishermen still being held hostage in Somalia. Piracy off the coast of Somalia has not been eradicated.

Looking to the future, we would encourage the Contact Group to take stock of what still needs to be done.  We welcome the start made in Paris in January this year and believe that the time is right for the Contact Group to consider the format of its work and focus on facilitating the achievement of specific, tangible goals.

Quite rightly, the main international effort is increasingly focused on assisting Somalia to develop effective governance and rule of law ashore and (from IMO’s viewpoint) the development of the Somali maritime sector.
However, until that work in Somalia becomes effective, flag States and the industry must maintain levels of implementation of IMO guidance and best management practices and Governments must continue to provide naval assets.  The new, streamlined Contact Group should be well placed to assist in this regard.

We wish you every success with your deliberations.
Thank you.