Saudi Arabia playing active role in combating piracy |
Arab News - 11 June, 2012
Saudi Arabia is providing expertise for the training of coast guards and enhancing their capabilities. It has also been implementing legislation to prosecute pirates and apprehend them.
This was disclosed by Hartmut G. Hesse, International Maritime Organization’s Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Maritime Security and Anti-Piracy Programs, Maritime Safety Division, in an exclusive interview with Arab News’ Ali Bluwi and Abdul Hannan Tago.
Hartmut G. Hesse was in the Kingdom at the invitation of the Saudi government as a keynote speaker at the Border Guard exhibition here on the occasion of its 100th anniversary during which he talked about the significant role and contribution of Saudi Arabia to anti-piracy operation both in cash and kind. He also described the Kingdom as one of the best ISPS-compliant countries in the region.
Hesse said the Kingdom is very advanced in its anti-piracy drive and ranks high among the countries, which have adopted the Djibouti Code of Conduct. The Djibouti meeting adopted the code of conduct concerning the repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.
We have established information sharing centers on piracy in Kenya, Yemen and Tanzania, among other countries as part of our anti-piracy drive. Saudi Arabia is playing an active role in this regard.
The following is the text of the interview:
Let’s talk first about your visit here and the nature of your participation in the conference?
Obviously I was so honored to be invited here by Rear Adm. Awwad Eid Al-Balawi, assistant commander of Border Security Guards for Maritime Affairs to participate in this conference. They invited the secretary-general himself to come here, but he could not make it due to his commitments and so he asked me to represent him here. Since I’ve been to Saudi Arabia before, I am very happy to come here again. I’ve been to Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam before and Adm. Al-Balawi is my very good friend.
I delivered my keynote speech here at the opening of the conference on Sunday. I was particularly asked to talk about IMO’s work in the context of enhancing maritime security, our work on counter-piracy, capacity building in the region. We are also active in the Gulf of Aden, among other regions. I also talked on our Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCC) countries, and a little bit on this year’s theme of IMO, which is 100 years after the Titanic incident. These were the three themes on which I spoke.
How about Saudi Arabia efforts in anti-piracy campaign?
Saudi Arabia is very active in many of the security issues. I am always dealing with assessments. When I first came here we had an assessment mission in Riyadh and Jeddah in terms of how Saudi Arabia is implementing the ISPS code, which is the International Ship and Port Facility Security. That was in 2004 shortly after the code was enforced.
Saudi Arabia is very active in implementing the provisions of the SOLAS convention in that respect and we are very satisfied specifically, of course, with Border Guard. Since 2009 we have adopted DCC which is basically addressing issues related to capacity building in the region of the Somali coast and the Somali vision toward the countries in the region to be able to implement the national law to apprehend the pirates, prosecute and imprison them, besides creating awareness of the negative consequences of their activities.
Monitoring and tracking of ships in their water, training and other related activities, such as technical infrastructure for the country to be able to implement the code will also be highlighted during my talk.
You have talked regional efforts, what specifically the DCC is doing in the anti-piracy operations?
We have established the IMO, and work in implementation of project unit. Initially the government of Japan provided $ 13.5 million as part of its contribution. Other countries since then have contributed funds to those activities. Saudi Arabia has contributed also to that project as well. With that project money we are implementing the provisions of DCC at the moment. We are also constructing a training center in Djibouti. Hopefully it will be operational by the end of this year.
In Djibouti we want to conduct a regional training center for Somalis, because we cannot train them in Somalia as yet because of the country’s chaotic situation. Other training programs will be done in Yemen, Kenya and Tanzania for regional training purposes, be-sides Saudi Arabia.
We have done assessment of the national legislation in the county.
The legal system is one of the main pillars, while the coast guard capability training is another pillar, with information sharing being the third pillar. The maritime domain as a base in principle constitutes the fourth pillar.
Is there any outsider player behind this piracy in Somalia what is your take on this particular issue?
Maritime piracy, I think, is an internationally organized transinternational crime. There are obviously transinternational players behind it. It is not the little Somali guy or the little fisherman who is going onboard a ship to get paid for his act of piracy. Somebody seems to be behind him.
We have seen piracy in other regions like the Straits of Malacca, Singapore Straits, South China Sea, and West Africa. But wherever this happened, we had taken action together with the government in the region. We were able to curb the piracy because the moment the international criminals are checked and their operations controlled, they go somewhere else to resume their activities. But in Somali, there is no government or rule of law, so nobody can control them or stop them effectively.
The UN organizations and regional players like European Union under the DCC with the countries in the region should set up training programs to provide Somalis alternative means of livelihood. They should be taught fishing or jobs dealing with various aspects of ports operation and maintenance.
We would like to make the port in Somalia ISPO-compliant, meaning it is a secure port like the one in Jeddah or Dammam which are fully compliant with the ISPO code.
Is there any relation of the sea piracy with the unstable situation in some countries in the region?
Well, I think the problem why piracy can establish itself so firmly in Somalia is that it is a failed state. Somalia and Yemen are close to becoming failed states as well so obviously if there is no rule of law and no control by the authorities then crime can flourish which makes the situation difficult to handle. But once we have established the rule of law in the area with the support of our partners in the maritime industry, I am sure we will be able to control the situation.
Why don’t we talk on the achievements during this period of time?
If we have been able to bring down the incidence of maritime piracy to some extent, it is because of the data maritime domain awareness. We give, for instance, the naval forces, LRIT information as long range, identification tracking information of ships passing through the water so they know which ships are coming through.
Obviously, most recent deployment of privately contracted and armed owned security personnel on board ships have also played a role in checking maritime piracy.
Two weeks ago at our maritime safety committee we have developed further guidelines for private maritime security companies for the deployment of these private contracted armed security guards to have a clear system of guidance and how these people are to be trained, so that they become duly certified.
Everybody has to accept the situation and deal with the root cause of the problem instead of treating the symptoms. Unless we find the solution in Somali shores, the situation will never improve.
Do you think that there is a certain country supporting or encouraging piracy in the area?
No, no, as I said there is no international player in such crime. There may be a syndicate behind it for providing the funding and sending the pirates to go out and in return they pay them.
I think also the message slowly goes through to the pirates and to the crime syndicate be-hind it as their business model is not working well anymore, because first of all only two-thirds of the pirates are coming back, one third actually either lose their lives or are captured, apprehended or prosecuted. So piracy is not business without its inherent risk.
How much is the total cost of the anti-piracy operations in Middle East?
Of course, there is still piracy in some other places. The estimated cost of piracy activities in the area of Somalia ranges around $ 7 billion a year, which includes any cost related to that aviationre-routing of ships to avoid pirates and using other routes for safe navigation. South Africa or Swiss Canal, then of course, the increase of insurance cost for ensuring the area they are going up by ten times much because it is declared as war zone.
Obviously the cruise paid is more during the transit, the cost of hijack ships and chartered cost. All these added costs put together make the world economy estimated it around $ 7 billion a year just for this particular problem. If you invest the money in Somalia it could solve the problem easily.
How do you monitor the ships in the waters and how do you track them?
Basically through LRIT, Long-range identification and tracking you can trace any ships worldwide because they use the LRIT information system to broadcast the name of the ship, its position, cost, speed of the ship, and the flag of the state. So you can trace any ship worldwide on the basis of this data.
The LRIT system provides for the global identification and tracking of ships. The obligations of ships to transmit LRIT information and the rights and obligations of SOLAS Contracting Governments and of Search and rescue services to receive LRIT information are established under regulation V/19-1 of the 1974 SOLAS Convention.
With regard to the legislation on the piracy operation how you evaluate it with that in the region?
As I said, we send assessment team to the country first. We have questionnaires and see what country tells us about itself what they have in place then after that when we have a fair idea.
Based on the feedback and other information, including their maritime legislation, we see where things are missing and how they should be fixed. We submit out recommendation to the country. If they agree, we may rewrite part of their national legislation dealing with safety at sea. We make amendment to be able to change it and put it in law.
Does IMO have an institutional training center in Somalia where Somalis can learn about the maritime law and anti-piracy legislation?
No not really. At the moment we are constructing a training center in Djibouti. It will be ready by the end of this year. But now we are providing training courses in Djibouti and other places in the conference center or whatever for anti-piracy and coast guard training.
What we want to do also that relates many to Somalis. We have World Maritime University in Malmö, Sweden, and Maritime International Law Institute in Malta where we would like to give fellowship to Somalis to bring them to Malta and train them there for management and maritime legislation management.
Once they have done their master’s degree there and they go back to Somalia, they will be able to train their own people and establish normal administration and work properly. That’s another possibility.
You have mentioned some obstacle in your operation what are the main obstacle you face so far?
I guess one of the obstacles is the insufficient funding, but I think the main obstacle is we cannot work in Somalia yet, because it is not secured yet and being UN agency, we are only allowed to go into Somalia. We shall do so when we get security clearance from the UN in New York. As long as the security situation in the country is not stable, we cannot really operate.
Besides, as long as the legal situation is not clear in Somalia we never know who you are training you may train the wrong people. We have to be very careful, so the rule of law comes first before you start training somebody. To overcome these I think we can start working in some of Somalia areas already declared safe. That’s why we tried with other UN agencies together to focus in some of the areas.
What has the Somali government done so far in this regard?
You know we have transition federal government in Somalia which is not based in the Capital, and has not really the power to rule the country. Toward the end of August this year there will be a new elected government and we hope that the government will have a bit strong hold over the people and exercise more governance.
Now, if you go to Mogadishu, it is an operating port it is a city I would not say like any city in the world but it is a city where people live and work and earn money but of course it is very dangerous because there is no real rule of law there.
Also UNDP is there to train for instance Maritime police personnel and also pay them because if you train somebody and you don’t pay them after the training so what they are going to do so they may give their service to somebody else who give them money. So the UNDP train the people and pay the people.