IMO Wants UN to Intervene in Pirate Attacks

In a London meeting on Wednesday, July 11, IMO Secretary-General, Efthimios E. Mitropoulos and United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met to discuss the rampant piracy in Somali waters. This meeting was a direct result of the IMO Council’s decision last month that authorized Mitropoulos “… to request Mr. Ban to bring the piracy situation off Somalia, once again, to the attention of the UN Security Council, [and] for the latter to request the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia to take action to prevent and suppress acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships sailing off its coasts.”

According to an IMO article from July 11, these actions “could include giving consent to naval ships or ships on Government service - as defined in Article 107 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea - to enter the country's territorial waters when engaging in operations against pirates or suspected pirates and armed robbers endangering the safety of life at sea, in particular the safety of crews on board ships carrying, within the activities of the World Food Programme (WFP), humanitarian aid to Somalia or leaving Somali ports after having discharged their cargo.”

Piracy has been increasing in Somalia since the military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overturned in 1991 by warlords. Though attacks decreased during the second half of 2006 when Islamists controlled most of southern Somalia, they have been increasing since the Islamists were expelled in January of this year. In fact, the ICC International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB’s) latest piracy report states, “Piracy has made a come back in Somalia. Pirates fire automatic weapons and on one occasion, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired force the ship to stop. Eastern and North eastern coasts are high risk areas for attacks and hijackings. Ships not making scheduled calls to ports in Somalia should keep as far away as possible from the Somali coast, ideally more than 200 nautical miles.”

Mitropoulos hopes that the UN Security Council will be able to reduce these attacks. In an IMO joint communiqué, dated July 10, he is quoted as saying, "The continuing incidence of acts of piracy and armed robbery in these waters is of great concern. In conjunction with other multi-faceted initiatives recently taken by IMO to address the issue effectively, this latest high-level approach to the Security Council, through Mr. Ban, will, I believe, help considerably in alleviating the situation, especially if support and assistance to ships is enhanced; and if Administrations and the shipping industry implement effectively the guidance that IMO has issued and the notices promulgated regularly by naval operations' centres."