The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia was created on January 14, 2009 pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1851. This voluntary,¬†ad hoc¬†international forum brings together over 80 countries, organizations, and industry groups with a shared interest in combating piracy. Chaired by the United States in 2013, the Contact Group continues to coordinate political, military, industry, and non-governmental efforts to bring an end to piracy off the coast of Somalia and to ensure that pirates are brought to justice.
Through its five thematic working groups, the Contact Group draws on international expertise and adopts a problem-solving approach towards addressing piracy, working closely with Somali authorities and regional administrations. Working Group 1, chaired by the United Kingdom, focuses on military and operational coordination, information sharing, and capacity building; Working Group 2, chaired by Denmark, addresses legal and judicial issues; Working Group 3, chaired by the Republic of Korea, works closely with the shipping industry to enhance awareness and build capabilities among seafarers transiting the region; Working Group 4, chaired by Egypt, aims at raising public awareness of the dangers of piracy; and Working Group 5, chaired by Italy, focuses on illicit financial flows associated with piracy as well as disrupting the pirate enterprise ashore.
This unique international partnership is contributing toward a significant decline in successful pirate attacks in the region. There has not been a single successful pirate attack in the region to date in 2013, and 2012 saw a nearly 75 percent decline in successful attacks over 2011.
Apprehensions at Sea
- On January 25, the EU Naval Force vessel FS SURCOUF transferred 12 suspected pirates to authorities in Mauritius for prosecution. The French naval frigate captured the suspected pirates after an attack on a merchant vessel off Somalia‚Äôs coast earlier that month.
- On February 25, the EU Naval Force frigate HNLMS DE RUYTER transferred nine suspected pirates to authorities in the Republic of Seychelles. The suspects were captured aboard two skiffs after an alarm report from a merchant vessel on February 19.
- On February 27, a federal jury in Norfolk, Virginia convicted five Somali men of piracy for the 2010 attack on the USS ASHLAND. A piracy conviction in the United States carries a mandatory life sentence.
- Trials have been proceeding in the region for 16 suspected pirates detained in April 2012 by the Danish naval vessel ABSALON, operating as part of NATO‚Äôs Operation OCEAN SHIELD. A court in Seychelles sentenced three of the pirates to prison terms of 24 years and a fourth to 16 years. Denmark collaborated with Pakistan to secure Pakistani fishermen held hostage by the pirates to serve as witnesses in court. The next step will be to transfer the convicted pirates to serve their sentences in their home country, Somalia.
- In March, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) organised the latest transfer of piracy prisoners from Seychelles to Somalia. 25 pirates were sent to Bosasso from Montagne Posse prison in the Seychelles in three charter flights. Thirteen of the prisoners had been apprehended by the U.S. Navy and 12 by European Naval Force. Previously 34 pirates had been transferred to Somalia, 29 to Hargeisa in Somaliland and five to Bosasso in Puntland.
- On February 6, the Contact Group‚Äôs Working Group 3 (Strengthening Shipping Self-Awareness and Other Capabilities) held its seventh session, hosted by Working Group chair the Republic of Korea in Seoul. Representatives from more than 45 countries and organizations discussed: shipping industry-developed Best Management Practices to protect merchant ships transiting high-risk waters; the welfare of seafarers victimized by pirates; potential updates to the region‚Äôs designated High-Risk Area, and related issues.
- The Contact Group‚Äôs Working Group 4 (Public Information) and 1 (Military and Operational Coordination, Information Sharing, and Capacity Building) met March 18-21, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Somali government officials participated for the first time in Working Group 4 meetings, and committed to harmonizing official counter piracy messaging with that of the international community. Working Group 1 reviewed the significant progress being made to enhance effective coordination of international activity to develop regional maritime security, judicial and penal capabilities, and exchanged views with leaders of the multinational naval forces operating in the High-Risk Area on the effectiveness of preventative efforts at sea, and the recent deliberations of the Shared Awareness and De-Confliction Mechanism (known as SHADE).
- Representatives of the Somali Contact Group on Counter Piracy (The Kampala Process), consisting of the Federal Government of Somalia, Puntland, Galmudug, and Somaliland, met in Addis Ababa on March 11-17. These meetings, facilitated by UNPOS, UNODC, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Maritime Organization, and the NGO Oceans Beyond Piracy, resulted in substantial progress towards developing a single draft Somali Maritime Strategy.
- Working Groups 2 and 5 will meet in Copenhagen on April 10-12.
- The Fourteenth Plenary of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia will meet in New York City in the UN headquarters on May 1, 2013, chaired. The United States will chair this meeting.
- In December 2012 and January 2013, the Hostage Release Programme administered by the UN Political Office on Somalia (UNPOS) supported the repatriation of 21 hostages from the M/V ICEBERG and the remaining six hostages from the M/V ORNHA. This programme, which is funded by the UN Trust Fund to Support Initiatives of States Countering Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (UN Trust Fund), tracks, monitors and then assists States and shipping companies to recover former hostages abandoned inside Somalia after their release by pirates.
- The Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecution & Intelligence Coordination Centre (RAPPICC) in the Seychelles officially opened on February 25. The RAPPICC will coordinate counter-piracy intelligence and information in order to better target the kingpins and financiers of Somali piracy.
- Ambassador Thomas Winkler of Denmark, Chairman of the Contact Group‚Äôs Working Group 2 (Judicial Issues), accompanied UNODC officials on a visit to Puntland, including to the prison in Bosasso, which has been rebuilt in large part with funding provided by the Trust Fund. During the visit, Puntland authorities and UNODC agreed on the establishment of a national monitoring group for transferred pirate prisoners, which UNODC will supplement with an international monitoring group. In Somaliland, UNODC opened a housing complex at Hargeisa prison as part of a continuing process to upgrade penal facilities throughout the region. UNODC Counter Piracy Programme prison advisors visited the five Kenyan prisons where 130 convicted pirates are currently serving sentences of up to 20 years.
- In March, $1.95 million was disbursed to the UN Development Program and UNODC to implement projects approved by the UN Trust Fund, which is managed by the UN Department of Political Affairs. The projects will develop police capacity to combat piracy in Puntland, Somalia; facilitate effective prosecution of individuals suspected of piracy; provide support to prisoner transfer flights from Seychelles to Somalia; and support the creation of a maritime law enforcement strategy and legal framework in Somalia.
- Working Group 3 hosted an ad hoc meeting in London on January 15 on the High Risk Area (HRA) in London, where participants deliberated on the scope of the HRA as defined in the fourth iteration of the Best Management Practices guidelines. Another issue discussed was the idea of a transit corridor off the coast of India. The meeting provided a forum for a focused and in-depth deliberation of the HRA issue among all parties concerned.
Piracy Statistics for January 1-April 1, 2013
- 4 attempted hijackings; no successful hijackings
- Hostage seafarers in pirate custody
- 16 on M/V ALBEDO (Malaysia), hijacked November 25, 2010
- 67 on six fishing vessels, including M/V NAHAM (Oman), hijacked March 26, 2012
- 17 held on land from M/V ASHPAHLT VENTURE, LEOPARD, and PRATALAY 4