Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia: Update

Friday, 19 July 2013, 4:15 pm
Press Release: US State Department

Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia: Quarterly Update

Fact Sheet

Bureau of Political-Military Affairs

July 18, 2013

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 in 2013 by the United States, the Contact Group coordinates political, military, and non-governmental efforts to tackle piracy off the coast of Somalia, ensure that pirates are brought to justice, and support regional states to develop sustainable maritime security capabilities. The European Union will assume the chairmanship in 2014.

Through its five thematic working groups, the Contact Group draws on a wide range of international expertise and adopts a problem-solving approach to piracy, working closely with Somali officials from the central government and regional administrations and officials in Indian Ocean States. Working Group 1, chaired by the United Kingdom, focuses on operational naval 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 disrupting the pirate criminal enterprise ashore, including the illicit financial flows associated with maritime piracy.

This unique international partnership is contributing to a significant decline in piracy off the Horn of Africa. The last successful pirate attack on a merchant vessel in the region occurred on May 10, 2012.

Recent Developments

On July 9, the governments of The Bahamas and the United States signed a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding to formalize their joint handling of Somali piracy cases where U.S. forces capture individuals suspected of attacks on Bahamian flagged-ships. This MOU between a major flag state (The Bahamas has the fifth largest merchant fleet in the world) and a major force provider in counter-piracy operations marks a significant step forward in international cooperation. The CGPCS Chair urges states with similar interests (whether as flag state or force provider) to consider similar agreements that serve to formalize and streamline the disposition of piracy cases.

Piracy Trials and Prosecution Support

• On July 8, a federal jury in Norfolk, Virginia convicted three Somali pirates of the 2011 murder of four Americans aboard the yacht QUEST off the coast of East Africa; sentencing proceedings will begin later in July. Eleven of the pirates who attacked the QUEST pleaded guilty in federal court in 2011 and were given life sentences. The onshore negotiator working for the pirates also received multiple life sentences.

• On June 10, a Kenyan court sentenced nine Somali citizens each to five years in prison after finding them guilty of violently hijacking the MV MAGELLAN STAR in the Gulf of Aden in September 2010. The court issued the relatively short prison terms in recognition of time served.

• On July 2, seven suspected pirates apprehended by U.S. forces in February 2009 were convicted in Kenya for the attempted hijacking of the MV POLARIS and sentenced to four years imprisonment.

• The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) provided a Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED) to Tanzanian authorities in support of that country’s two ongoing piracy trials. The UFED enables the Tanzanian police’s Cyber Crime Unit to develop its capability to extract information from the phones of suspected pirates and those suspected of other transnational organized crimes.

Apprehensions at Sea

• On June 5, EU Naval Force warship HSwMS CARLSKRONA and NATO counter-piracy Dutch warship HNLMS VAN SPEJIK rescued fourteen Indian sailors after Somali pirates abandoned their captured dhow in the Gulf of Aden

Prisoner Transfers

• In Seychelles, the UNODC supported talks for the next round of prisoner transfers to Somaliland and Puntland. A total of 23 convicted Somali piracy prisoners consented to be transferred immediately, while two elected to wait for their appeals to be heard. UNODC also supported arrangements for the return of one Somali juvenile to his family after completing his sentence for piracy and subject to his informed consent, as well as funding of defense lawyers for the last group of nine suspected pirates detained by EUNAVFOR.


• Working Group 2 held its twelfth meeting on April 10-11 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Discussion focused on three areas: 1) prosecution and in-depth review of current legal challenges and solutions, including with regard to human rights issues, 2) implementation of the post trial-transfer system and prosecution, including the legal framework for prosecuting piracy organizers and the handling of child pirates, and 3) use of privately contracted armed security personnel and Vessel Protection Detachments.

• Working Group 5 held its meeting on April 12 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Participants agreed to the Ten Key Principles in Information Sharing for Identifying and Prosecuting Pirates, which recognizes the need for international information sharing, cooperation and coordination to effectively identify and prosecute pirate financiers and facilitators. WG 5 Chair’s report indicated it has made great strides in identifying pirate networks and the identity of financiers and facilitators.

• On May 1, the Contact Group held its 14th plenary session, chaired by the United States, at UN Headquarters in New York. In videotaped remarks, Somali President Mohamud condemned piracy and announced a new national maritime resources and security strategy for Somalia, which was welcomed by the Contact Group and received international endorsement at the Somalia Conference in London on May 7., along with pledges of further support to Somalia. Moving forward, the Contact Group agreed to focus on four cross-cutting areas in addition to the work of its five working groups: communication, collaboration with related programs, strengthened legal efforts to disrupt networks ashore, and proactive discussion of policy issues associated with the use of armed security on commercial ships. Djibouti will host a Counter-Piracy Week November 10-14, culminating in in the Contact Group’s 15th plenary session.

• On May 2, the Contact Group and the Colorado-based non-governmental organization (NGO) Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) co-sponsored a symposium in New York entitled “Creating Economic Opportunities for Somalia.” The symposium focused on the emerging climate for economic development in Somalia.

• On June 27, Working Group 1 met in Nairobi, for the second consecutive in the Horn of Africa region. This meeting complemented the latest round of meetings of the Kampala Process, at which representatives from the Somali Federal Government, Somaliland, Puntland and Galmudug came together with international partners to progress the detail underpinning the Somali maritime security and resource strategy endorsed at the 14th plenary session. The WG1 meeting also covered several further topics including an operational naval update with discussion on the high risk area, information sharing between capacity-building stakeholders, a status update on work to coordinate international actors’ capacity building activity through the WG1 Capacity Building Coordination Group and web-based tool, and a series of briefs from EU colleagues on the status of their regional capacity building efforts.

Significant developments

• The Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecution and Intelligence Coordination Centre formally opened for business with the joint signing in February of the Partnership Agreement between the UK and the Republic of Seychelles, adopting an operating model in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations Treaty on Trans-national Organised Crime. Following the inaugural signings, Australia, INTERPOL, The Netherlands, and the United States have signed formal Partnership Agreements, with additional agreements expected in the coming months. RAPPICC continues to build close relationships with the European External Action Service, the Indian Ocean Commission and the International Maritime Organisation in order to enhance closer-working with regard to capacity-building.

• The European Commission announced that it will provide USD $59 million to several Eastern and Southern African countries to help fight maritime piracy in Africa. The new EU Regional Maritime Security program will include assistance for legal and judicial system development to assist authorities with prosecuting suspected pirates, as well as material logistic support to help improve regional maritime surveillance. The program will also help fund anti-piracy awareness campaigns in areas where piracy is prevalent, particularly Somalia.

• The Trust Fund to Support Initiatives of States Countering Piracy off the Coast of Somalia approved a package of five projects worth $2 million in support of anti-piracy efforts in Somalia and other affected States in the region. The projects will support piracy trial efficiency, detainee repatriation, skills training for detainees, equipment to monitor fisheries resources, and capabilities to investigate illicit financial flows.

• The UNODC’s Counter Piracy Programme held a planning conference with the future managers of the new Garowe prison for convicted pirates transferred home from the States where they were tried. Junior prison staff training began in June and will continue until opening day. UNODC also supports the Prisons Commissioner in developing the management structure, routines, and orders for prison operation.

• In Hargeisa, Somaliland, the UNODC-funded education and skills training work for piracy and other prisoners continues to make progress. The prisoners are being taught to weld, make bricks and tailor school and prison uniforms. The prisoners skills have allowed the authorities to open the final block with improved facilities and security arrangement. The prison authorities have identified areas where the items can be displayed and sold to the public. As well as providing skills for the prisoners, this work allows the authorities to raise revenue to assist with the feeding and other running costs of the prison.

• Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) released its new report The Human Cost of Piracy. OBP also published a study entitled Burden-sharing Multi-level Governance: A Study of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. The authors conclude the Contact Group “will be a useful model for collective efforts that address problems requiring fast and adaptive responses to changing situations on the ground, and on issues where power imbalances between actors will not scuttle the collaborative execution of collective goals.”

Hostages in custody

Sinking of the pirated M/V ALBEDO. On July 8, the pirated Malaysian-flagged and –owned M/V ALBEDO sank at anchor off the coast of Haradhere, Somalia, endangering the lives of both hostages and their captors; reports of casualties are as yet unconfirmed. M/V ALBEDO was seized by pirates on November 26, 2010, and its 15 crewmembers held hostage since that date. This dangerous situation highlights the enduring humanitarian plight of abducted mariners, and the Contact Group calls upon hostage-takers in Somalia to immediately and unconditionally release the remaining innocent victims of maritime piracy.

At least 50 hostage seafarers remain in pirate custody. Only F/V NAHAM 3 is still held by pirates; M/V ALBEDO sank at anchor off Haradhere on July 8, 2013, and urgent efforts are underway to ascertain the whereabouts of the crew.

15 hostages from M/V ALBEDO

28 on F/V NAHAM 3 (Oman-flagged), hijacked March 26, 2012

4 held since April 18, 2010 from PRANTALAY 12 and 7 held since April 16, 2011 from M/V ASHPALT VENTURE



Original Article