International Maritime Organization secretary-general Efthimios Mitropoulos intends to use the Maritime Safety Committee meeting in London this week to gather support for his long-held plan to co-ordinate all international anti-piracy operations under a single United Nations command and increase the number of warships being used off Somalia.
While over 20 countries have active anti-piracy naval operations in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, co-ordination and co-operation between navies has produced mixed results and, says Mr Mitropoulos, the system is not working as it should.
European Union, Nato and Combined Task Force operations co-ordinate operations on a strategic and operational level, but ships from these operations account for just over half of the operational assets in the region.
The remaining warships in the region from non-alliance governments, including China, India and South Korea, liaise on an operational level via the military co-ordination mechanism known as the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction Meeting, or Shade.
The IMO, however, is now pushing for this arrangement to be formalised under a central UN command structure.
“I am not convinced Shade is the right answer,” said Mr Mitropoulos. “I know [the navies] communicate, but I am not sure to what extent this kind of established co-ordination produces the optimum results”.
Mr Mitropoulos contacted Nato secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen and EU high representative for foreign affairs and security Baroness Ashton earlier this year to ask them to provide more naval ships, arguing that current resources were insufficient. No response has been received from Nato, but discussions with Baroness Ashton are understood to be progressing.
While the IMO has no mandate to establish a central UN command, Mr Mitropoulos is optimistic that if he can demonstrate support from the MSC meeting, this could be enough to spur action from the UN secretary-general’s office.
The plan already has some backing from naval commanders, and supporters of the plan see the politically neutral option of a UN-led rotation of national commanders being the only way to ensure international political rivals operate effectively together on naval operations.