Rizal Suma, Ambassador of Indonesia in London, introduced the conference by recalling the importance of the sea not only for his country, vast archipelago State, but for the world. He announced that the next annual Our Ocean’s Conference will be held in Bali, next October and will focus on sustainable development (marine pollution, marine protection, sustainable fisheries …)
According to the annual State of Maritime Piracy 2017 report released by the NGO’s Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP), while the number of incidents involving pirates around the world declined in 2017 compared with 2016, the number increased off the coasts of Africa, South America and in the Caribbean. Maisie Pigeon, the report’s lead expert underlined that pirates’ activity in 2017 demonstrated that pirate groups retain their ability to organize and implement attacks against ships transiting the region. Following her explanations, criminal networks involved for long times in piracy have now turned their activities in many others traffics as drugs, weapons and wildlife.
It is striking to admit that the number of incidents in the Horn of Africa between ships and pirates sharply increased in 2017 compared with the previous year, according to both the OBP report and the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) annual report on piracy. Piracy incidents in the Horn of Africa doubled in 2017, particularly off the coast of Somalia that is remaining a clear focus of international community as recently as 2012. The first hijacking of a merchant vessel in 5 years was recorded with the capture of the Aris-13 in march 2017. Incidents also were recorded off the coast of Yemen, due to the chaotic situation that is prevailing in the country since 2011. A representative of EU NAVFOR Atalanta mentioned that in December 2017 a naval mine was discovered along the Yemeni coast.
The situation is very worrying across Asia, where pirates have long been a threat to the littoral States and the maritime industry. The region still accounts for the greatest number of pirate incidents in the world, but it saw an overall drop in reported incidents of 23 percent in 2017 from 2016 and a 51 percent decrease from 2015, according to the OBP report. For example, kidnap-for-ransom incidents decreased by 80 percent due to cooperation by regional law enforcement actors. But the human cost of piracy is particularly high with 17 seafarers killed in incidents in 2017. Maisie Pigeon explained that cooperation between countries in the region has been a key element to fighting pirates and mentioned an agreement between 3 majors South East Asian States – Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines – to organize coordinated patrols, mainly in the Sulu Sea, to secure the waters.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, pirate incidents increased by 160 percent in 2017 compared with the previous year, according to OBP. Venezuela was named as facing an increase in piracy’s activity.
What are the main take away from 2017?
Increased vigilance, communication, active collaboration between naval forces (mainly Combined Maritime Forces and Atalanta), respect of Best Management Practices by the ship owners and private security guards on boards were mentioned during the Q and A period as the best means to fight piracy. For the future, a few changes are expected, if the EU ‘s operation Atalanta is going to be extended for 2 years, the MSCHOA should be transferred out of United Kingdom around 2019.