By Shafaat Shahbandari
Conference calls to build on gains achieved over past two years, warns against dropping guard
Dubai: Piracy in the Gulf of Aden is at an all-time low but delegates at the third Counter Piracy conference in Dubai called for more efforts and finances to deliver a killer blow to the criminal network that supports pirate activities.
The two-day conference ended with a unanimous agreement to build on the gains achieved over the past two years in reducing pirate activities by strengthening the government of Somalia by carrying out constructive projects and operations in the country.
Appreciating major progress made in Somalia on security, justice and economic development, the participating 70 countries, including the GCC states, the US, India, Pakistan and the EU countries, pledged new financial support of $350 million (Dh1.27 billion).
‚ÄúThe focus over the last two years was to manage the crisis. Now that the situation is under control the stakeholders involved should focus on consolidating the achievements made over the past two years. It is a tricky situation and if we lower our guard it won‚Äôt take long before the situation gets bad. As agreed in the conference we call on all parties concerned to help build a viable Somali state and strengthen their hands in fighting the menace inland,‚Äù said Fares Al Mazroui, Assistant Secretary of Military Affairs at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Al Mazroui also called for the unconditional release of around 60 seafarers and fishermen who are still being held by pirates and called on all parties concerned to work on securing their release.
‚ÄúThe idea is to isolate the pirates as much as possible and suffocate their sources of finance. This, along with naval and inland operations as well as prosecution of the pirates, will help in achieving the objective discouraging youth from joining pirate activities,‚Äù he added.
Although the final recommendations issued at the end of the conference commended the standards implemented in employing private security personnel on board merchant vessels, members at the conference also raised concerns about the dangers of employing private security on the high seas.
‚ÄúWe are concerned at the continued and increasing presence of privately contracted armed security personnel on commercial vessels moving close to the Indian Coast. We have consistently called for voluntary reporting of such information to our Maritime Response Coordination Centres. We have clarified that this request is not to restrict the right of innocent passage but only on security considerations. We do hope these points will be given serious consideration,‚Äù said Dr T Kumar, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping, Government of India.