UN Says Vessel Operators Not Using Proper Safety Precautions Off Somali Coast

During 2009, nearly $60 million in ransom was paid to Somali pirates as 47 vessels and approximately 300 crew members were captured.

Meanwhile, the United Nation’s Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia has formally adopted a mode of cooperation between China and the Western naval coalition patrolling the Gulf of Aden

“This cooperation is open for any nation that patrols these waters in order to prevent piracy,” said Carl Salicath, chairman of the Contact Group and senior advisor at Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Some countries escorted their own ships in convoys, as China had done before the agreement.

The U.N. Security Council has provided countries and navies authorization to enter Somali territorial waters, with advanced notice, and to use all necessary means to stop piracy and armed robbery at sea. The coalition patrolling the threatened areas included the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), involving ships from 23 nations.

The Contact Group states that ships that are pirated almost always do not comply with the best practices adopted by the group. Some of the self-protective measures include increased lookouts, zigzagging maneuvers, razor wire and using fire pumps. The International Maritime Bureau recently released a report stating that last year’s sea attacks rose 39 percent to 406 cases, the highest in six years. And, the Somali pirates accounted for 217 of the attacks and seized 47 ships.

The Contact Group, which was celebrating its one-year anniversary, was holding its fifth plenary meeting at U.N. Headquarters. Salicath said the Chinese cooperation has been the topic of discussion within the Group for a long time. He added the operational details have been worked out through the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) system facilitating multinational counter-piracy efforts. The venue of cooperation will be the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) in the Gulf of Aden, which the International Maritime Organization (IMO) had endorsed in March 2009.

The Group also approved a Trust Fund (a multi-purpose fund) to help countries in the region fight piracy, with the main purpose being to build capacity in their criminal-justice systems in order prosecute suspects. Salicath said there have been no discussions about establishing an international court to try the pirate.

The group also discussed communications strategies and means of recovering ransom money from the pirates after they had released their captives. The group acknowledged that the long-term solution to piracy off the Somali coast lay in creating a stable and economically viable Somalia. MarEx