Monday, February 11, 2013

Container Shipping Lines Fight Somali Pirates by Supporting Social Reforms

Initiative to Create Jobs for the Young in Traditional Industries
Shipping News Feature

SOMALIA – Since the rise of the modern pirate scourge in the waters off the East African coastline some years hence the concerted message from everyone from container shipping lines to the combined naval security forces has been simply that protecting the freight and passenger vessels that ply the Indian Ocean was merely a short term solution. Redoubling of defensive efforts and honing security surveillance and avoidance techniques has minimised the problem but the investment of time and resources all adds to the cost of the international logistics supply chain.

All involved in the process agree that Somalia must be raised again to the level of a civilised society and the constant food convoys from organisations such as the World Food Programme (WFP) should hopefully fade into history. Now some of the world’s leading shipping lines and energy groups have joined together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in funding a scheme to support job creation and capacity building projects in Somalia.

Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Ltd. (K Line), Shell, BP, Maersk, Stena, NYK and MOL will provide funding of US$1.0 million to the UNDP so that the UNDP will oversee the distribution of the funds from 2013. This collaboration between many in the shipping industry and UNDP is the first step in an initiative, launched this time last year and designed to make a contribution to the rebuilding of a stable Somalia and thus reduce the risk of piracy to seafarers in the Indian Ocean. A further announcement is expected detailing another $1.5 million which the shipping industry will be making available for other projects in the region.

The UNDP will focus on supporting long-term youth employment with the aim of providing viable employment alternatives to piracy for Somalia’s youth in the agriculture, livestock and fishing industries, for example this tranche of funds will support the creation of a business development centre for local entrepreneurs. The funding will also help the UNDP to build up local youth facilities to encourage community collaboration and mutual support and the hope is that this initiative led by the shipping industry will facilitate establishing the foundation for a future generation in Somalia that has choices and no longer supports or condones piracy.

The UNDP was selected as a collaborator because of its existing footprint in coastal and city centres in Somalia and the alignment of the objectives of the shipping industry partners with those of the UNDP’s 'Alternative Livelihoods to Piracy in Puntland and Central Regions' project. The proposed reconstruction of society will doubtless face numerous problems with the militant elements of the al Qaeda offshoot, al Shabaab, bound to take exception to any outside influence which doesn’t tally with their own code of behaviour.

The involvement of energy companies in this initiative is also interesting given the widely held belief that it is the inappropriate behaviour of corrupt Government officials in West Africa who have given out energy prospecting rights, regardless of the environmental damage these have engendered, that has initiated so called ‘pirate’ activities on the opposite side of the continent.

Photo: Somali fishing boats safe in harbour. As well as pressure on their waters from foreign fleets there are many reports of pirates stealing local boats or taking their engines whilst they are at sea leaving the crews to try to make land without power.