Somalis stand firm on the protection of the 200nm EEZ, while IMO Renews Calls in Fight Against "Piracy"

Africa: IMO Renews Calls in Fight Against Piracy.

Mugadishu, Saturday, 22 December - 2007 [Radio Simba]

As acts of piracy continue to threaten shipping, it's time for governments to conclude regional agreements on the menace.

Delays in the conclusion of regional agreements and non-cooperation of member countries with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) are to blame for piracy and robbery against ships on international waters.

The IMO has renewed calls for action against the nagging menace, especially off the Coast of Somalia , which has been without a central government since 1991.

In a resolution passed by the 25th session of IMO, Governments in the region must co-operate with the organisation besides concluding a regional agreement to prevent, deter and suppress piracy.

The resolution also places considerable emphasis on the need for co-operation, communication and the sharing of information, as key elements in tackling the problem.

The assembly adopted the resolution on November 29.

Picking the cue, the Port Management Association of Eastern Africa and Southern Africa (PMAESA) has come out in support of action.

PMAESA secretary general, Mr Jerome Ntibarekerwa says the coastline needs a maritime component of the Africa Standby Force.

In the latest PMAESA newsletter, Our Ports, Ntibarekerwa calls for bilateral and multilateral engagement in the form of continued conferences, exercises and joint operations.

"Those opportunities will help foster good relations, share and standardise best practices and develop information and intelligence regimes," he says.

Earlier this year, some ship operators in Mombasa suggested that the Government provide armed escorts to commercial ships plying between Mombasa port and Somali waters.

The demands followed the capture of Mombasa-based vessels by Somali pirates as they delivered relief food for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in the war-ravaged country.

However, Transport minister, Mr Chirau Ali Mwakwere, ruled out such an arrangement, citing international conventions to which Kenya is a party.

In February, Kenya , Tanzania , Mozambique and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia proposed the formation of a Joint Task Force to conduct anti-piracy and collective reporting activities.

The new resolution appeals directly to TFG to, among other things, "take any action 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."

Significantly, the resolution asks 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.

Last week, a leading sailors' welfare organisation, the Seafarers Assistance Programme (SAP), supported the United Nations Security Council decision to address the piracy menace in the region.

In the IMO resolution, governments will issue specific advice and guidance on any appropriate additional precautionary measures necessary to protect ships from attack, when sailing off the coast of Somalia and what they should do if attacked.

Moreover, ships are encouraged to ensure that information on attempted attacks is promptly conveyed to the nearby coastal States and to the nearest, most appropriate rescue and coordination centre and governments are asked to bring such information to the attention of IMO.

Governments are further requested to instruct their rescue and coordination centres to transmit relevant advice and warnings on reported attacks through the World-Wide Navigation Warning Service, the International SafetyNet Service or other means to warn ships in the immediate area, the resolution notes.

Each country should provide a point of contact through which ships may request advice or assistance and to which such ships can report any security concerns on peculiar movements or communications in the area, the resolution adds.

Investigation of all acts or attempted acts of piracy and robbery is actively encouraged and governments are requested to report any pertinent information to IMO.

It also urges them to take all necessary legislative, judicial and law enforcement actions to ensure they are able to receive and prosecute or extradite suspected pirates and robbers

Meanwhile SAP national co-coordinator, Mr Andrew Mwangura, has warned fishing vessels to keep away from Somali waters. Apart from being in danger, the presence of such vessels in Somalia was largely illegal and contrary to the UN Convention on Law of the Sea.

He said the ill-fated vessel and her 16 crew members comprised two Taiwanese, two Filipinos and 12 Chinese were hijacked by Somali gunmen on April 18 this year while on a fishing expedition in Somali fishing grounds.

The ship and crew were released after Taiwanese ship-owners paid a ransom.




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