IMO Head Tells UN Cooperation Can Provide Anti-Piracy Blueprint

IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos has told the United Nations General Assembly that multilateral co operation arrangements, between and among States, regions and institutions can provide the means to reduce the risk of unprovoked piracy attacks on innocent ships, citing coordinated patrols in high-risk areas, information sharing, intelligence exchange and hot pursuit following attacks as among the tools by which this can be achieved.

Addressing an informal meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York, May 14, 2010, on the subject of piracy, Mr. Mitropoulos said that its global character, and the imperative of combating it, make it essential that States continue establishing effective cooperative mechanisms and that the UN System provides a leading, indeed, coordinating role.

Convened by H.E. Mr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, President of the 64th session of the General Assembly, and opened by H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, the meeting was organized as three panels focusing on piracy from a wide variety of perspectives, including political, legal, social and economic aspects of combating it, in general, and in the particular case of Somalia. Speakers included ministerial-level officials of Somalia and other Governments, representatives of UN, regional and seafarers' organizations, and the commander of the European Union's ongoing naval operation "Atalanta".

In his remarks, UN Secretary-General Ban paid tribute to the various States and regional or intergovernmental entities that have been working to tackle piracy, adding that "UN bodies and agencies have also been closely involved, particularly the International Maritime Organization. Thanks to these efforts, the success rate of attacks has decreased from one in three to one in ten".

The meeting's third panel, in which Secretary-General Mitropoulos was both moderator and presenter, addressed the crucial role of the UN and of co operation among States in preventing and repressing what is a global problem. In his intervention, Mr. Mitropoulos took the opportunity to highlight the successful collaboration that Asian nations, with IMO support, had already established to combat piracy and armed robbery in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. He expressed the expectation that a similar approach in the current trouble-spots - off the coast of Somalia, the Gulf of Aden and the wider Indian Ocean - would also pay dividends, and pointed to IMO's success in drawing up the Djibouti Code of Conduct under which regional systems and infrastructure for information sharing, training, maritime situational awareness and legislative improvements are being established.

Formally adopted in January 2009, the Djibouti Code now has 14 signatory States, all united in the effort to implement the rule of law at sea and, together, build the necessary capacities to tackle the problem. "We expect", Mr. Mitropoulos said, "that the systems and infrastructure we are putting in place will help to reduce substantially the operation of pirates in the region, just as they did in the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, where the experience gained is now serving as a template for the signatories to the Djibouti Code."

Other topics covered by the wide-ranging meeting included an examination of the relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982, and the ILO Maritime Labor Convention, 2006, and discussion of the various initiatives that might be implemented within the framework of IMO to further enhance security of navigation. Jurisdiction over the crime of piracy, the problem of custody and prosecution of pirates, ways of strengthening mutual legal assistance between Member states in investigating piracy acts, and the welfare and protection of victims of piracy, including seafarers, were also discussed, together with ways of enhancing the effectiveness of national criminal justice systems aimed at ensuring that any person involved in financing, planning, preparation or perpetration of piracy acts or who supports such acts is brought to justice.

Visit http://www.un.org/ga/president/64/thematic/piracy.shtml for full details of the meeting.