Piracy in the Indian Ocean region-Coastal states unite to better guard their EEZ


                     Minister Adam addressing delegates at the opening of the workshop yesterday

The three-day gathering at the Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Resort & Casino is being held under the purview of the inter-regional coordination committee, which is a platform of all regional organisations for collaboration and efficient use of European development financial resources.

It comes after the ministers of eastern and southern Africa, at a meeting in Mauritius in October 2010, adopted the Regional Strategy and Plan of Action on Piracy and for Promoting Maritime Security.

At the opening of the workshop yesterday, delegates also watched a documentary on the effects of piracy on Seychelles, especially on the Unesco heritage site Aldabra.
Opening the meeting, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jean-Paul Adam, who is also current IOC chairman, noted that most countries of this region has had to live with piracy for the last three to four years.

“If we have got better at managing the problem,” he said, “we are still working hard for a true long-term solution.”

Noting that the Indian Ocean is a critical conduit for world trade, in addition to holding some of the world’s most important fish stocks, our ocean is one of the most critical factors in the development of this region.

“This is why this regional maritime security project is more than just a continuation of regional cooperation. It is in fact the most important initiative in ensuring that regional cooperation and development remains possible,” the minister said.
Mr Adam went on to state that piracy is impacting heavily on Seychelles tourism, in terms of cruise ships that are no longer calling here and the previously fast growing boat charters that have had to downscale operations drastically.

He said that in fisheries, piracy is attacking the lifeblood of the Seychelles. Fish prices have shot up as fishermen are confined to fishing closer to inner islands and boats cannot risk longer trips at sea.

Mr Adam noted that the government has just started to implement a protection regime for its fishing vessels, involving protection detachments as well as protection for groups of vessels in certain areas.

“We are the only regional state to offer such protection, but at a time of heightened economic crisis the cost of such operations is clearly a huge burden for a small developing state,” he said.

Mr Adam recalled that President James Michel has recently launched an appeal to world leaders on the subject of piracy and the measures we need to take to address this problem.  The President identified five key areas of intervention:

• Strengthening the role of peacekeeping forces in Somalia
• The use of targetted operations to displace pirate groups and Al Shabab
• The strengthening of areas of stability in Somalia
• Strengthening of the capacity of coastal states, and
• The pursuit of the financiers of pirate activity.

Mr Adam underlined the key goal of the present project which is to enhance the ability of coastal states to better protect their own resources and exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

On the global effort to combat piracy, Mr Adam said there has been some progress recently  and he congratulated the US, the UK, Denmark and Spain, all of which have undertaken daring operations against pirate groups in the past week, resulting in the capture of a large number of buccaneers.

He said we must also be thinking long-term in relation to solutions that strengthen the role of Somalia itself in prosecuting and detaining pirates. 

Seychelles’ capacity for prosecution and detention is already stretched with over 70 pirates.
 He added that there have also been “very encouraging discussions” with the regional governments of Puntland and Somaliland for transfers of prisoners in UN built prisons in Somalia.

The minister also thanked the European Union (EU) for an additional grant of 3 million euros “in recognition of the huge burden that piracy places on the Seychelles economy”.

The IOC secretary general, Callixte D’Offay, said maintaining maritime security and piracy are the two main challenges that member states have agreed to tackle together.

“Dealing with these challenges has become all the more important at a time when regional integration and trade among countries of the region is a key strategy for its economic and sustainable development.”

Mr D’Offay noted that the EU started implementing the first phase of the Plan of Action through a start-up project worth 2 million euros and a financing convention was signed in December, 2011. 

The EU aims at preparing the ground for the implementation of a more substantive programme to the tune of 25 million euros.

The EU regional representative, Henriette Geiger, echoed the political commitment of the European Commission, as expressed by its vice-president, Catherine Ashton, to fight piracy and its consequences.

She hailed Seychelles, which she said was “a driving force” in the anti-piracy global effort.
Ms Geiger also announced that after Mauritius, the EU is negotiating agreements for the transfer of captured pirates with Tanzania.

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