Global action forcing pirates to Indian Ocean
UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Intensified international action to tackle ship seizures off the Somali coast is forcing pirates into the Indian Ocean and more recently closer to the Seychelles, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report circulated Monday.
The U.N. chief said the expanding international maritime presence "is playing a critical role in stabilizing the situation at sea."
In the report to the U.N. Security Council, he said the deployment of naval ships and military aircraft as well as improved efforts by ships to protect themselves "have considerably reduced the number of successful incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea in the region, especially in the Gulf of Aden."
During 2008, the International Maritime Organization reported 306 incidents of piracy and armed robbery worldwide, 136 of them in East Africa. Between January and Sept. 30 this year, 300 incidents were reported including 160 in the East Africa area. As of Oct. 27, eight ships and 178 seafarers were being held hostage, the report said.
While the pirates have not changed their methods of operation between mid-March and the end of October, the report said "the locus of such activities shifted from the Gulf of Aden to the western Indian Ocean and, more recently, closer to the Seychelles, largely as a result of successful naval action."
"There is also some information to suggest that smaller ships, such as fishing vessels and pleasure craft, are increasingly being targeted, but as yet there is insufficient data for a detailed analysis," Ban said.
Lt. Nate Christensen of the Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet said last week that 25 ships from 14 nations are now patrolling the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.
Ban said the Bahamas, Liberia, the Marshall Islands and Panama on May 29 became the first signatories to the New York declaration, which outlines internationally recognized best management practices to protect ships against piracy. Since then, five other countries have signed on - Cyprus, Japan, Singapore, Britain and the United States, he said.
"Those signatories now account for more than 50 percent of the world’s shipping by gross tonnage," Ban said.
The secretary-general said INTERPOL is also supporting law enforcement efforts by increasing the exchange of intelligence about piracy, building regional police capabilities and cooperating with other international and regional organizations.
But Ban said the various military operations off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden against piracy need "a lead role and coordination arrangements that go beyond the operational capacity and resources of the United Nations Secretariat."
He urged those countries "who are able and have the required capacity to contribute to this effort."
Ban stressed that "one of the ways to ensure the long-term security of international navigation off the coast of Somalia is through a concerted effort to stabilize the situation ashore, as pirates have become more sophisticated in their methods and techniques of attacking."
Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991 when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other, plunging the country into chaos and anarchy. The fragile U.N.-backed government and an undermanned, poorly resourced African Union peacekeeping force have struggled to defend government buildings, the port and airport in the capital, Mogadishu, against Islamic insurgents.
The secretary-general said "it will be crucial for the Somali authorities to continue to re-establish their security institutions, and the rule of law and provide sustainable livelihoods to their people in order to address the root causes of piracy."
He welcomed an initiative by INTERPOL and member states to look into the financial mechanisms providing money for piracy activities and called for contributions to a trust fund to help Kenya and other countries prosecute and incarcerate pirates.