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Lessons From The Somali Piracy Crisis

by Lorys Charalambous,, Cyprus

07 February 2014

The International Chamber of Shipping, the principal global trade association for ship owners, has released a report drawing upon the international shipping industry's experience of Somali-based piracy during the period 2007 to 2013.

The ICS paper has been submitted to the International Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, which was established in response to a United Nations Security Council Resolution.

"The intention is to identify lessons learned in order to shape future policy responses, wherever in the world they might be needed," ICS Secretary General Peter Hinchliffe said.

The ICS has produced its paper following a dramatic reduction in the number of successful attacks against ships by Somali pirates, currently at a five-year low thanks to the combined success of sustained compliance with industry Best Management Practices (BMP), the use of private maritime security companies, the activity of military vessels, and new capacity-building initiatives on shore.

Pirates remain active however, the report warns. There were at least thirteen reported incidents involving Somali pirates, including two hijackings, during 2013. The ICS therefore has emphasized that it is premature to conclude that the crisis is over. Seafarers are still being held hostage in Somalia, some for three years, it says.

The ICS paper explains the significant challenges the shipping industry has faced in responding to the crisis in the Indian Ocean, which escalated dramatically in 2007.

"It was particularly important to foster an understanding that protection against pirate attacks was a shared responsibility in which both the military and the industry have to play their parts," recalled Hinchliffe.

The ICS paper explores the challenges of:

  • Developing and disseminating appropriate and acceptable Best Management Practice recommendations on preventative measures to be taken by shipping companies, ships, and crews;
  • Maintaining constant pressure on shipping companies and ships to sustain BMP compliance at the highest possible level;
  • Responding to the legal and practical challenges associated with the capture and prosecution of piracy suspects;
  • Responding to the legal and practical challenges created by the employment of private armed guards;
  • Responding to the humanitarian challenge of thousands of seafarers left traumatized by the experience of being held hostage for several months (years in some cases);
  • Addressing the legal and moral dilemma created by the necessity for shipping companies and their insurers to make ransom payments;
  • Addressing the challenges of promoting capacity building on shore, and the reconstruction of civil society; and
  • Addressing the crisis in an appropriate but proportionate manner.

Concluding, the ICS said: "ICS believes the core lesson – of responding to criminality robustly and without delay – will be more easily delivered in the future if these basic lessons are kept readily to hand."

TAGS: marine

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