IMO Council Agrees on Piracy Initiative

Thursday, June 28, 2007
The IMO Council, meeting for its 98th session in London, has agreed further action to address the continuing incidence of acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships sailing in waters off the coast of Somalia and, in particular, ships carrying humanitarian aid to the country.

The Council endorsed the proposal of IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon be requested to bring, once again, the piracy situation off Somalia to the attention of the UN Security Council, so that the Security Council can, in turn, request the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia to take action, as it may be deemed necessary and appropriate in the circumstances, to prevent and suppress acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships, including consenting to ships, as defined in Article 107 of UNCLOS, operating in the Indian Ocean, entering its country’s territorial waters when engaging in operations against pirates or suspected pirates and armed robbers endangering the safety of life at sea, in particular the safety of crews on board ships carrying, within the activities of the World Food Program (WFP), humanitarian aid to Somalia or leaving Somali ports after having discharged their cargo. The Council authorized the Secretary-General to take action in accordance with his proposal.

“The continuing incidence of acts of piracy and armed robbery in waters off the coast of Somalia is of great concern to IMO Member States, the IMO Secretariat and to me personally,” Mr. Mitropoulos said. “In conjunction with other multi-faceted initiatives recently taken by IMO to address the issue effectively, the Council’s endorsement of this high-level approach will, I believe, help considerably in alleviating the situation, especially if support and assistance to ships is enhanced; and if Administrations and the shipping industry implement effectively the guidance that IMO has issued and the notices promulgated regularly by naval operations’ centres.”

The continuing instability in Somalia has given rise to renewed attacks on ships and a worrying increase in the number of reported incidents – including attacks on ships carrying humanitarian aid to the country chartered by the WFP. Mr. Mitropoulos said that a new request from the UN Security Council would be in line with the UN Security Council’s Presidential Statement of 15 March 2006.

The number of reported attacks on ships off the coast of Somalia in 2005 prompted the IMO Assembly to adopt resolution A.979(24), by means of which the matter was first brought to the attention of the UN Security Council. This action resulted in the above-mentioned Presidential Statement, which encouraged UN Member States with naval vessels and military aircraft operating in international waters and airspace adjacent to the coast of Somalia, to be vigilant for any incident of piracy therein and to take appropriate action to protect merchant shipping (in particular ships being used to transport humanitarian aid) against any such act, in line with relevant international law.

Subsequently, there had been a much-welcomed reduction in acts of piracy and armed robbery off Somalia, due, to a large extent, to the support provided by naval assets in the region, as a consequence of IMO’s well-established liaison with relevant naval operations’ centres.

However, as a result of the renewed rise in attacks on ships in recent months, IMO has lately taken a number of steps, including intensifying its coordination mechanism with WFP and navies operating in the region, with a view to ensuring that the tracking of and, where necessary, the provision of assistance to merchant shipping is maintained and further strengthened.

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