SOS SaveOurSeafarers ** welcomes the London Conference on Somalia which was attended by 55 delegations from Somalia and the international community, and willingly supports its focus on unifying the international community in its coordinated support to Somalia, in the hope that a new era of Somali politics, supported by the international community, will bring peace to Somalia.
SOS thanks the UK Prime Minister for urging delegates to “keep up the pressure on pirates”. SOS specifically welcomes the Conference’s acknowledgement of shipping industry and naval efforts to combat piracy and its commitment to international military efforts with robust rules of engagement. The naval forces and the shipping industry succeeded in halving the number of successful hijackings (to 25 in 2011 from 47 in 2010) despite an increase in hijack attempts (to 151 in 2011 from 127 in 2010). But both need resources, commitment and perseverance to defeat and eradicate Somali piracy as opposed to simply deterring and repressing it.
However SOS is disappointed that the Conference’s phrase ‘hostages in Somalia’ does not acknowledge the world’s seafarers and the hardship seafarers have to go through in order to keep world trade moving through this area, and how much they suffer, both physically and psychologically, while being held prisoners for ransom on their ships or in Somalia – and not only the seafarers but their families too. One former pirate hostage, Capt Miro Alibasic, held for 3.5 months last year on the crude oil tanker Zirku, describes his captivity and that of his crew as ‘hell on earth’.
SOS notes statements made during the Conference by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and UK Prime Minister David Cameron about “creating an international task force to discourage the payment of ransoms to pirates and other groups to eliminate the profit motive”, and is deeply concerned if they mean in any way to hinder the payment of ransoms for ships and seafarers, which is currently the only way ship owners can ensure the ultimate safety of hijacked seafarers. The conclusions from the London Conference on Somalia which specifically relate to Somali piracy may be summarised as follows:
- Determination to eradicate piracy using a comprehensive approach on land and at sea.
- Concern that hostages in Somalia are being held longer and with more use of violence.
- Acknowledgement of the success of international military efforts.
- Commitment to these international military efforts with robust rules of engagement and sufficient force generation.
- Supporting local communities to tackle the underlying causes of piracy.
- Welcoming the efforts of partners in industry against piracy – and specifically calling for a greater take-up of Best Management Practice on ships.
- Welcoming current work on international guidance on the use of private armed security companies.
- Determination that there will be no impunity for piracy.
- Greater development of judicial capacity to prosecute and detain those behind piracy.
- New arrangements to enable the transfer of suspected pirates for trial by partners across the Indian Ocean region and ultimately transfer to prisons in Puntland and Somaliland.
- Determination to prosecute the kingpins of piracy, enhancing coordination on illegal financial flows and coordinating intelligence gathering.
A number of these conclusions are key points for which SOS SaveOurSeafarers has been fighting – eradication of piracy, concern for hostages, military commitment with robust rules of engagement, a determination that there will be no impunity for piracy, more prosecution and detention of pirates and those behind them.
SOS thanks all those who have supported it in every way since it started up almost a year ago, and who continue to support it as it works to call on governments across the world to take a firmer stance to help tackle Somali piracy so that this scourge is deterred, defeated and ultimately eradicated. SOS urges you to go to our website http://www.saveourseafarers.com and send a letter to your government.
Thursday 23 February 2012.
** SOS SaveOurSeafarers is the biggest ever grouping of the international maritime industry with 30 organisations joined together to raise awareness of the human and economic cost of piracy using approaches to politicians and industrial leaders at the highest level. It started operation in March 2011. Over 100, 000 visits to its website from 188 countries and over 31, 300 letters sent to governments worldwide. Its main aims are to resolve the piracy problem off Somalia; to see piracy deterred, defeated and eradicated; to stop seafarers being tortured and murdered.