London conference focuses on next steps for Somalia
24 February 2012An international conference on Somalia hosted by the UK government in London has agreed a plan to tackle the problems that lie behind the alarming growth of piracy over recent years.
The conference on 23 February was attended by representatives from 55 countries and organisations, including US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and United Nations secretary general Ban-Ki Moon. It agreed a seven-point plan for measures to fight piracy, terrorism and political instability in Somalia, promising more humanitarian aid, support for African Union peacekeepers and better international coordination to meet the country's long-term needs.
On piracy, the conference agreed to crack down on the problem by expanding existing agreements to bring suspects to trial in countries away from Somalia. This includes setting up a new regional anti-piracy prosecutions intelligence coordination centre in the Seychelles to track pirate money and help prosecute "the kingpins of piracy". The centre will be launched with funds from the UK of £550,000, and will also be supported by the Seychelles and Dutch governments, as well as Interpol.
Responding to the conference, ITF affiliate Nautilus International said that it was long overdue, "as the maritime sector has been calling for some time for on-land resolutions as the only way to ensure an end to the immediate threats at sea". However, the union added that those involved should "also address the growing threat to merchant ships operating off the west coast of Africa", where a master and chief engineer were recently killed.
Meanwhile in India, the authorities continue to detain two members of the Italian navy security team on board the Italian ship Enrica Lexie accused of the fatal shooting of two unarmed Indian fishers mistaken for pirates off the coast of Kerala on 15 February. The arrests have caused a diplomatic row, with Italy claiming that the marines have immunity as they were on board an Italian-flagged ship in international waters when the incident occurred.
According to the most recent figures from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) worldwide piracy reporting centre, Somali pirates currently hold captive 10 vessels and 159 hostages. Hostages continue to include seven Indian seafarers from the Asphalt Venture and four South Koreans from the Gemini, still held captive despite the payment of ransoms.
The latest reported incidents worldwide include:
- Robbers boarded a chemical tanker anchored at Kuala Tanjung, Indonesia on 23 February, held a crewmember hostage and attacked him, and escaped with ship's spares.
- A suspect skiff carrying weapons approached a tanker in the Gulf of Aden on 22 February. A distress call was sent and the onboard armed security team fired a warning shot. The pirates returned fired with AK-47 and fired further rounds before they abandoned the attack and moved away.
- A skiff with five to six pirates, rocket-propelled grenade and automatic weapons approached a chemical tanker around 500 nautical miles east of Seychelles on 18 February. The onboard armed security team fired warning shots, the pirates returned fire and then moved away.
- Pirates were reported to have hijacked a cargo ship with 15 crew about 25 nautical miles off Sadh, Oman on 15 February.
- About 20 robbers in two boats approached a tanker anchored at Cochin, India on15 February and attempted to board, but abandoned the attack after the lookout crew raised the alarm and crew mustered.
- Two skiffs with five pirates, guns and ladders approached a supertanker 240 nautical miles east of Seychelles on 8 February. The vessel increased speed, made evasive manoeuvres and applied anti-piracy measures. The skiff stopped approaching after the onboard security team fired warning shots.
- Two heavily armed pirates were spotted on board a chemical tanker anchored in Lagos, Nigeria on 16 January. The crew locked themselves in the citadel and the pirates fired warning shots before entering the bridge, where they assaulted the master and stole his personal effects. A further 10 pirates arrived and ordered the master and chief engineer to sail to a location approximately 80-100 nautical miles south of Lagos, where the crew were forced to prepare the vessel for lightering operations, which took place on 20 January. The pirates left the tanker on 21 January, having stolen crew cash, personal belongings and ship cash.
All attacks and suspicious sightings should be reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre, Tel: +603 2031 0014 (24 hours), Email: firstname.lastname@example.org