IMO To Counter Piracy On Land

A newly formed team at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is hoping to give its campaign against piracy a fresh direction by helping the failed state of Somalia to recover.

One of the first moves of secretary-general Koji Sekimizu was to appoint Hartmut Hesse as special representative for maritime security and antipiracy programmes. Working along with Hesse is Maritime Safety Division deputy director Chris Trelawny.

Hesse’s newly created role was made to take forward the work of last year’s successful IMO campaign “Piracy, Orchestrating the Response”, which was the brainchild of former secretary-general Efthimios Mitropoulos.

Hesse said: “The secretary-general took the step because if we are to continue the [antipiracy] exercise the country [Somalia] primarily needs more resources and his main idea is to add another layer to the high-level work we have been doing within the United Nations system.”

Hesse points out that last year much of the IMO’s work was directed toward defending ships at sea through such initiatives as establishing guidelines on security guards and self-defence measures and working with the navy. But he admited: “We are coming to the point where we cannot do much more at sea.” Instead the IMO is more focussed on developing land capabilities to counter piracy.

A key vehicle for developing the IMO’s initiative rests with the Djibouti Code of Conduct, an agreement between West African and Red Sea states on stopping piracy.

The IMO has helped develop coastguard capabilitiees and has worked with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on developing a judicial and penal system for Somalia’s neighbouring states to prosecute pirates. The next move is to make similar efforts in Somalia itself.

Hesse said: “We now realise much more needs to be implemented and we want to put the focus on Somalia.”

An agreement with Somalia’s Trans Federal Government (TFG), known as the Kampala Process, has put a system in place that will help the IMO develop its initiatives in the country.

Trelawny said: “As a state Somalia is fragile but it works. The TFG is in power but it has little authority. It is the regional authorities in Puntland that are making progress.”

He points out that the police in Puntland have been active in taking action against pirates and estimates there are hundreds of pirates awaiting trial in the region.

The IMO’s roadmap for Somalia is based on developing the maritime sector and in the long run it hopes the support will lead to the state developing economically and being more capable of containing piracy and providing alternatives for the young who are inevitably attracted to crime.

The initiative also involves improving the coastguard and search-and-rescue capabilities and in the long term, developing the fishing industry, ports sector and setting up customs procedures that should help the economy grow. The IMO is even working with Somalia for it to sign up to the Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) convention.

Hesse admits it is a long-term and strategic approach that may not bring immediate results in terms of defeating piracy. But his experience has shown that unless the root cause is solved, the problem will never go away.

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