A high-level meeting in Djibouti has been convened by IMO to help address the problem of piracy and armed robbery against ships off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.
The meeting, which was opened Jan. 26 by IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos and the Prime Minister of Djibouti, Mr. Dileita Mohamed Dileita, is expected to conclude and adopt, pursuant to a request made by the IMO Assembly in its resolution 1002 of 2007, a regional agreement to assist countries in the region to build capacity to suppress piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.
The opening session was attended by several Ministers of Transport and Ambassadors of countries in the region; high-level representatives of States that have sent naval assets to protect shipping from acts of piracy and armed robbery in the troubled waters off Somalia (including those of China, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom); and officials of international organizations co operating with IMO on this issue (including the United Nations and the World Food Programme).
In his opening address, Secretary-General Mitropoulos expressed appreciation to the countries that had to date contributed to the protection of shipping off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden. He underlined that it was indicative of the seriousness with which the issue was now being addressed worldwide that the response to earlier calls by IMO and the United Nations, rallying support for decisive action, had come from afar.
Mr. Mitropoulos further stressed that the contributing alliances of Governments, organizations and individual countries (citing the European Union, NATO and China, India, the Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia) had done their duty and that the time had now come for States in the region to add their own contribution to the concerted efforts of the international community. More importantly, he continued, it was "time for Somalia itself to act. One can have few hopes that the situation at sea will improve dramatically unless and until there is significant improvement on the political front on land. For it is favourable political developments ashore that will help stem the scourge offshore. The fate of Somalia is in the hands of the people of Somalia as they, and they alone, are, and should be, the masters of their country and its destiny. We wish their leaders courage, wisdom, prudence and determination to bring peace and stability to their country and among its citizens; to help them build hope in themselves and in the future of their country; and to succeed in leading their proud nation to the path of happiness and prosperity - of which it has been deprived for so long and which it so much deserves."
The Djibouti meeting will conclude on 29 January 2009 and is being attended by senior officers from the maritime and port authorities of Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Jordan, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, the United Republic of Tanzania and Yemen as well as from other IMO Member States.
The event follows from earlier regional meetings, also convened by IMO, including the Subregional seminar on piracy and armed robbery against ships and maritime security held in Sana'a, Yemen, in April 2005; the Follow up subregional workshop on maritime security, piracy and armed robbery against ships held in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, in January 2006; and the IMO subregional meeting on piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Western Indian Ocean, held in Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania, in April 2008.
The Dar es Salaam meeting, in particular, developed a draft regional Memorandum of Understanding concerning the repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Western Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea, which forms the basis of the draft agreement now being considered in Djibouti.
The draft regional agreement is based on the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) and its Information Sharing Centre (ReCAAP-ISC), which has operated, and continues to operate, with great success in the Asian region.
The draft agreement recognizes the extent of the problem of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the region and calls on its signatories to co-operate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships, with a view towards sharing and reporting relevant information; interdicting ships suspected of engaging in acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships; ensuring that persons committing or attempting to commit acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships are successfully apprehended and prosecuted; and facilitating proper care, treatment, and repatriation for seafarers and passengers subject to acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships, particularly those who have been subjected to violence.
Signatories will agree to arrest, investigate and prosecute persons who have committed piracy or are reasonably suspected of committing piracy; seize suspect ships and the property on board such ships; and rescue ships, persons, and property subject to acts of piracy. These acts would be consistent with international law.
The agreement also covers the possibilities of hot pursuit into another country's territorial waters and shared operations, such as nominating officers to embark in the patrol ships or aircraft of another signatory.
The draft agreement further envisages the setting up of national focal points for piracy and armed robbery against ships and the sharing of information relating to incidents reported.
It additionally envisages that signatory countries will review their own national legislation with a view towards ensuring that there are national laws in place to criminalize piracy and armed robbery against ships, and adequate guidelines for the exercise of jurisdiction, conduct of investigations, and prosecutions. This is intended to allow for the prosecution, conviction and punishment of those involved in acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships, and to facilitate extradition when prosecution is not possible.