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Governo Italiano

Maritime piracy: A threat to our security and the global economy

Data:

04/10/2012


Maritime piracy: A threat to our security and the global economy

Maritime piracy is a deadly threat to the lives of all men and women working at sea. It is also a threat to the maritime industry and international trade, and to the basic rights we all enjoy to travel freely and safely. It is, after all, an attack on the global economy, as more than 80 percent of global trade is carried out by maritime transportation.

The audacity, scope and intensity of today’s pirates – we should actually call them sea terrorists – is unprecedented. We have never witnessed something comparable to the number of attacks and hijacking of ships, and seafarers kidnapped or killed, in the past three years. Their frequency and cruelty are particularly worrying.

Piracy has expanded over the years. Previously, attacks were carried out by small and disorganized groups of fishermen. During the last decade, however, we have witnessed the steady growth of the piracy phenomenon in both frequency and intensity of attacks, which today are well-coordinated and unfortunately sometimes successful. Particularly for its disruption of the main maritime trade route between Europe and Asia, piracy has been growing as an “emerging market” in its own right. It affects the Horn of Africa, a very strategic area that connects, via the Gulf of Aden, trade flows between the east and west to the neighboring Strait of Bab el- Mandeb and into the Suez Canal.

Not only does piracy represent a threat to maritime transportation, it is also a highly destabilizing threat to the entire industry. Attacks are shattering global shipping markets at a time when the industry is already facing critical financial and economic challenges. It is also worth pointing out that this plague inflicts additional costs on commerce. For example, insurance premiums for shippers represent a relevant excess cost. If we consider only piracy off the coast of Somalia, these costs multiply by seven. In addition, the cost of re-routing vessels to avoid danger zones is estimated to be between $2 billion and $3 billion a year. In order to protect their vessels, ship owners spend between $300 million and $2.5 billion annually on security equipment. We simply cannot ignore these consequences.

Piracy is a transnational issue, occurring not only off the East and West coasts of Africa, but also in Southeast Asia, the Bay of Bengal and the Caribbean. As an international crime, piracy should be fought through a multi-dimensional approach focusing on prevention, diplomacy, deterrence and security. This is exactly what countries such as Italy and Indonesia are doing together with the vast majority of the international community. After pleading the case for stronger international cooperation at the G8 foreign ministers meeting in Washington on April 11-12, I discussed the issue during my visit to Jakarta a few weeks later.

Indonesia has an outstanding record in combating piracy, and the joint patrol system put in place by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in the Strait of Malacca is one of the world’s most efficient counterpiracy initiatives. These three countries are particularly sensitive to this issue, having suffered from piracy in the past and felt its harmful effects on the regional economy. Vessels in the Indian Ocean, which represents a strategic area for trade flows between the East and the West, are frequent targets of pirate attacks. ASEAN as a whole has strongly focused on the need for safe trade in the seas. We successfully worked to include an explicit reference to counter-piracy cooperation under the relevant norms of international law in the final communiqué of the European Union-ASEAN meeting in April.Indonesia has an outstanding record in combating piracy, and the joint patrol system put in place by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in the Strait of Malacca is one of the world’s most efficient counterpiracy initiatives. These three countries are particularly sensitive to this issue, having suffered from piracy in the past and felt its harmful effects on the regional economy. Vessels in the Indian Ocean, which represents a strategic area for trade flows between the East and the West, are frequent targets of pirate attacks. ASEAN as a whole has strongly focused on the need for safe trade in the seas. We successfully worked to include an explicit reference to counter-piracy cooperation under the relevant norms of international law in the final communiqué of the European Union-ASEAN meeting in April.Indonesia has an outstanding record in combating piracy, and the joint patrol system put in place by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in the Strait of Malacca is one of the world’s most efficient counterpiracy initiatives. These three countries are particularly sensitive to this issue, having suffered from piracy in the past and felt its harmful effects on the regional economy. Vessels in the Indian Ocean, which represents a strategic area for trade flows between the East and the West, are frequent targets of pirate attacks. ASEAN as a whole has strongly focused on the need for safe trade in the seas. We successfully worked to include an explicit reference to counter-piracy cooperation under the relevant norms of international law in the final communiqué of the European Union-ASEAN meeting in April.

Every nation should have a fullfledged commitment to raising awareness about piracy and developing appropriate measures aimed at both keeping the seas safe and protecting seafarers and ship owners. National measures should be combined with improved multilateral and regional cooperation within international organizations such as the United Nations, International Maritime Organization, ASEAN, the EU, NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council. And, of course, to fight the root causes of piracy and effectively dismantle criminal organizations, the international community must strengthen its comprehensive approach, linking security with development, the rule of law and respect for human rights, which were clearly stated in a resolution passed by the European Parliament in May.

It is in the international community’s interest to prevent the further expansion of maritime piracy, particularly in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. Italy has contributed warships to both NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield off the Horn of Africa and the EU’s Operation Atalanta off the coast of Somalia. It is of fundamental importance that we deepen the quality of international security effort against piracy. That said, the threats and consequences of piracy cannot be remedied by military means alone.

I have welcomed the formation of a special working group, chaired by Italy, against illicit financial flows stemming from piracy off the coast of Somalia. The group’s aim is to develop guidelines for disrupting piracy-related financial networks and circulate its findings among other countries to contribute to international action against piracy. The working group is already contributing to both international cooperation in the financial sector and data sharing among countries.

There were 202 piracy and armed robbery incidents at sea globally this year as of August 16, according to the International Maritime Bureau, compared to 439 attacks in 2011. International cooperation is helping to significantly reduce the overall success rate by pirates. One of the key factors is the increased cooperation between the naval forces of participating nations and the maritime industry, primarily through the use of armed protection tools such as Vessel Protection Detachments (VPDs). The Italian Parliament authorized the use of VPD military teams on Italian-flagged vessels as part of counter-piracy measures on the high seas in order to fulfil the corresponding obligation that falls upon every nation under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Given current constraints on defense budgets, assigning navy units to be counter-piracy deterrents has proved to be a costly commitment. The VPD teams, though, are formidable “force multipliers” and allow for the more efficient use of warships in focused counter-piracy operations.

Although the growing international cooperation on piracy is an encouraging trend, much remains to be done. The only way to obtain concrete results is through a clear, solid legal framework. Unless we are ready to accept weaker and less effective action by the international community against the plague of piracy, relevant principles of international law applying to navigation of the high seas must be respected by all.

Freedom of navigation would be a meaningless concept if the exclusive jurisdiction of a flag state (the nation where a ship is registered) in international waters is not guaranteed. Counter-piracy operations are not possible if nations do not respect the immunity of military personnel while on board a distressed vessel, in particular coastal states in areas where piracy is a menace, beginning with the Indian Ocean. Navy personnel employed in VPDs are on active duty and act as agents of their country, and must be exempt from the jurisdiction of other countries. In fact, the sending nation should judge its military personnel when needed. This principle must be strongly defended, or jurisdictional precedents will be set with serious consequences for all countries using soldiers in missions abroad.

What country would be eager to send its military men and women to protect vessels knowing that they could be detained while performing their official duties? This would be the end of counter-piracy action. The same problem can occur with international peacekeeping operations if some nations protest that military personnel are violating international law.What country would be eager to send its military men and women to protect vessels knowing that they could be detained while performing their official duties? This would be the end of counter-piracy action. The same problem can occur with international peacekeeping operations if some nations protest that military personnel are violating international law.

Imagine you are a brave soldier, assigned to ensure the seas are safe for international travel and trade, and while doing this you get arrested by the authorities of the very coastal state that is the first beneficiary of your work? This is not a theoretical question. This very thing happened to two Italian Marines who are still being illegally detained by Indian authorities in violation of the very basic principles of international law I just mentioned. Of course, there are cases when errors or violations by local authorities may pre-empt operational mechanisms and legal principles, as precise and comprehensive as they may be, designed to ensure the effectiveness of international cooperation in this field and respect for international law. However, this is exactly when a nation is called upon to prove it has a coherent political commitment to the common cause of international legality – to the rule of law, not only the law of the sea.


Luogo:

Roma

Autore:

Giulio Terzi

14233
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