IMO Adopts New Resolution on Somali Piracy

According to an ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) article, posted on the organization's Web site on October 31, there has been a recent spike in hijackings near Somalia. IMB Director Captain Pottengal Mukundan says that though the number of attacks was decreasing until this year, "2007 has shown a complete reversal of this trend, with the number of acts of piracy already well surpassing those that occurred during the same period in 2006." These startling statistics may have led to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) passing a new resolution on the subject, entitled Piracy and armed robbery against ships in waters off the coast of Somalia, on Thursday, November 29.

This "wide-ranging new resolution," as described in a November 29 IMO briefing, touches upon many aspects of the Somali piracy problem, including appealing to Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Firstly, the resolution asks the TFG "to take any action it deems necessary to prevent and suppress acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships originating from within Somalia and to ensure that its coastline cannot be used as a safe haven from which attacks can be launched." The TFG is also requested to "ensure that all ships seized by pirates and armed robbers and brought into waters within its territory are released promptly and that ships sailing off the coast of Somalia do not become victims of acts of piracy or armed robbery." Most significantly, the briefing goes on to state, "the resolution asks the TFG to advise the UN Security Council that, in response to a previous request from the IMO Council, it consents to warships or military aircraft entering its territorial sea, when engaging in operations against pirates or suspected pirates and armed robbers."

The resolution also asks the TFG to "advise the Security Council of its readiness to conclude any necessary agreements so as to enable warships or military aircraft to escort ships employed by the World Food Programme (WFP) for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Somalia or leaving Somali ports after having discharged their cargo." The disruption of severely needed humanitarian aid to the area specifically has the UN Secretary-General upset. In a letter to the President of the Security Council on September 26, the Secretary-General states, " Close to 80 per cent of World Food Programme (WFP) assistance to Somalia is shipped by sea; however, due to piracy, the availability of ships willing to carry food to the country has been halved. So far this year, there have been 15 attacks on ships in or near Somali waters, including two on WFP-contracted vessels, with a security guard killed in one of them. In 2006, there were 10 attacks."

The resolution also appeals to all Member States ". . . to assist to take action, within the provisions of international law" in order to ensure any hijacked persons "are immediately and unconditionally released and that no harm is caused to them." To accomplish this and reduce piracy incidences, the IMO stresses the need for "co-operation, communication and the sharing of information, "specifically through Rescue Coordination Centres, the World-Wide Navigation Warning Service, and the International SafetyNet Service.

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. For the latest piracy information, visit the IMB's Webs site here.

For more information on past anti-piracy actions, etc. taken by the IMO and UN Security Council, please read the "Background" section of the IMO briefing here.

The full text of the resolution can be read

**MarEx Comment: On a related and positive note, the crew of the cargo vessel Al Marjan<.i>, which was hijacked on October 17, was apparently released this past weekend.