Thursday, February 28, 2013

Security from Pirate Scourge Moves Closer For Bulk Freight and Container Shipping Community

New Centre Will Target the Bosses behind a Criminal Industry and Amnesty Announced
Shipping News Feature

UK- SOMALIA – SEYCHELLES - INDIAN OCEAN- One of the great fears which troubles the commanders of the naval forces currently dealing with the security of shipping in the Indian Ocean is that they will lose the political backing necessary to reinforce the tremendous strides they have taken to eliminate the scourge of piracy in the region. The combined naval force chiefs realise that theirs must be a long term commitment to ensure the safety of all craft, from private yachts and fishing boats up to cruise liners and container carries and bulk freight vessels.

In November the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2077 (2012), which was the latest of an annual series of measures begun in 2008 to reaffirm that vigilance would be maintained in the region both to protect the flow of humanitarian aid and curtail all pirate activity. The latest resolution covered all bases congratulating all members of the shipping and international naval communities for redressing the balance so successfully but noted that the prosecution of suspected pirates was completely inefficient under current legislation.

Resolution 2077 notes however that it is within the remit of the UN, under the terms of the 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (“SUA Convention”) ‘to create criminal offences, establish jurisdiction, and accept delivery of persons responsible for or suspected of seizing or exercising control over a ship by force or threat thereof or any other form of intimidation.’

It is this clause that we see taking effect with the transfer of captured suspects now it seems being put before a Court, as we detailed yesterday, and now the Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecution & Intelligence Coordination Centre (RAPPICC) in the Seychelles has been officially opened by UK Foreign Office Minister, Alistair Burt who on Monday, strangely enough the same day the latest batch of prisoners were very publicly transferred into custody there, performed the formal opening ceremony.

The purpose of RAPPICC is to bring together experts from around the world to share intelligence and information which will help to tackle the ‘king-pins and financiers of piracy’, in other words to destroy the controllers of this evil trade as opposed to constantly facing new ranks of foot soldiers who man the skiffs used in most attacks. Staff for the Centre will be drawn from a cross section of nations including the UK, the US, Tanzania, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Australia as well as native Seychellois plus factions of INTERPOL and EUNAVFOR. The UK guaranteed over half a million pounds toward the construction of the Centre and provided an initial co-Director. The Minister commented:

“I welcome the vital work of the RAPPICC, which begins in earnest today. This centre will play a vital role in targeting the heart of the piracy operations: the leaders and financiers of piracy who feel as if they are able to act with impunity. By targeting those at the top the RAPPICC will perform a vital and unique function, and will support regional capacity in tackling serious organised maritime crime in Somalia and across the Indian Ocean.”

Anyone involved in or with knowledge of the problems in Somalia understands that only by a social revolution bringing stability to the region will reduce crime to an ‘acceptable’ level. To this end the UK is working with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to develop sustainable livelihoods in coastal communities, which complements DFID’s programme of building long-term and sustainable jobs and economic opportunities in the country.

One example of such work is the Sustainable Employment and Economic Development Programme, a joint project with UNDP Somalia. The programme is aimed at working to improve the livelihoods of various stakeholders in the fisheries sector in Puntland. It will result in improved regulation and development through public-private partnerships, with the aim to create 20,000 long-term jobs.

Just this week the President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, announced an amnesty for pirates willing to forsake the trade but made it abundantly clear this offer did not extend to any of higher rank and declared efforts would be made to offer youngsters caught up in the criminal world an alternative source of income.

Many advocates for the pirate community often cite the decimation of local fisheries as the core reason for pirate activity, despite clear evidence that the skiffs they habitually use are often stolen from local fisherman and the fact that foreign fishing boats are often a target, indicating a working fishery. If the UK and others can learn by previous mistakes and secure the industry in the region for the natives, the last excuse for the pirates to ply their vile trade will have been eliminated.

Photo: Seychelles President James Michel and Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt open the Centre.