IMO Assembly Issues Renewed Call for Action on Piracy off Somalia

Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Renewed calls for action to prevent and suppress acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships, in particular off the coast of Somalia, were made by the 25th session of the Assembly of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), when it adopted a new resolution on Piracy and armed robbery against ships in waters off the coast of Somalia. The resolution was submitted to the Assembly at the recommendation of IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, following its approval at the meeting of the IMO Council which preceded the Assembly, and revokes an earlier resolution (A.979(24)) adopted in 2005 at the 24th IMO Assembly. The wide-ranging new resolution appeals directly to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia. Among other things, it requests the TFG to take any action it deems necessary to prevent and suppress acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships originating from within Somalia and to ensure that its coastline cannot be used as a safe haven from which attacks can be launched. It goes on to ask the TFG to take action to ensure that all ships seized by pirates and armed robbers and brought into waters within its territory are released promptly and that ships sailing off the coast of Somalia do not become victims of acts of piracy or armed robbery.

The resolution asks the TFG to advise the UN Security Council that, in response to a previous request from the IMO Council, it consents to warships or military aircraft entering its territorial sea, when engaging in operations against pirates or suspected pirates and armed robbers. In addition, in view of the worsening humanitarian situation in Somalia, it also asks the TFG to advise the Security Council of its readiness to conclude any necessary agreements so as to enable warships or military aircraft to escort ships employed by the World Food Programme (WFP) for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Somalia or leaving Somali ports after having discharged their cargo.

Through the new resolution, the IMO Assembly, which is the governing body of the Organization and comprises all 167 Member States, has reiterated its condemnation of all acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships, irrespective of where they have occurred or may occur and, in particular, has appealed to all parties able to assist to take action, within the provisions of international law, to ensure that seafarers serving on any hijacked ships, and any other persons on board, are immediately and unconditionally released and that no harm is caused to them.

The resolution also places considerable emphasis on the need for co-operation, communication and the sharing of information, as key elements in tackling the problem. The resolution specifically calls on Governments in the region, in co-operation with IMO, to conclude a regional agreement to prevent, deter and suppress piracy and armed robbery against ships. Other Governments are called upon to assist these efforts. It also urges Governments to issue, to ships entitled to fly their flag, specific advice and guidance on any appropriate additional precautionary measures necessary to protect themselves from attack, when sailing off the coast of Somalia, and on any measures or actions they may need to take when they are under attack, or threat of attack.

Ships are encouraged to ensure that information on attempted attacks is promptly conveyed to the nearby coastal States and to the nearest, most appropriate Rescue Coordination Centre and Governments are asked to bring such information to the attention of IMO. Governments are further requested to instruct national Rescue Coordination Centres, or other agencies involved, to transmit relevant advice and warnings on reported attacks through the World-Wide Navigation Warning Service, the International SafetyNet Service or other means, so as to warn shipping in the immediate area. They are also asked to provide a point of contact through which ships may request advice or assistance and to which such ships can report any security concerns about other ships, movements or communications in the area. The investigation of all acts or attempted acts of piracy and armed robbery is actively encouraged by the resolution and Governments are requested to report any pertinent information to IMO. It also urges them to take all necessary legislative, judicial and law enforcement action to ensure they are able to receive and prosecute or extradite suspected pirates and armed robbers. The IMO Secretary-General is requested to transmit a copy of the resolution to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, for consideration and any further action he may deem appropriate, and to continue monitoring the situation in relation to threats to ships sailing in waters off the coast of Somalia. He is also requested to consult with Governments and organizations with a view to providing technical assistance to Somalia and nearby coastal States to enhance their capacity to give effect to the new IMO resolution.

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