EU Maritime security: a coming-of-age story

In the recent years, the EU has incrementally increased its efforts to stem piracy, a phenomenon that has plagued the shipping industry for the better part of the last decade. The wide array of tools at the EU’s disposal (military deployment, development and humanitarian aid, trade agreements, capacity building assistance, diplomatic contacts etc…) make it one of the best placed international actors able to tackle not only the direct effects of piracy but, more importantly, also address its root causes.

EU NAVFOR, the EU naval mission off the coast of Somalia has since 2008 been the cornerstone of the Union’s efforts to stymie the attacks of armed Somalis on cargo vessels transiting the region and its presence has proved to be invaluable. Moreover, in the last few years, EU development and humanitarian aid, EU training and capacity building missions, the adoption of a Horn of Africa strategy and the appointment of an EU Coordinator for the region are evidence of the EU’s commitment to deliver.

Another important step was taken on January 1st when the EU has assumed the chairmanship of the Contact Group on Piracy off the coast of Somalia (CGPCS), a UN forum established in 2009 to facilitate the discussion and coordination of actions among states and organizations to suppress piracy off the coast of Somalia. The EU will seek to make the CGPCS more cost-efficient and demand-driven. It will also attempt to reduce the number of piracy incidents to “zero/zero”: zero seafarers taken hostage / zero ships hijacked. Finally, the EU will also strive to capitalise on the lesson learned in Somalia, so as to apply those in other pirate-infested areas, such as West Africa.

“The role of the industry in fighting piracy is crucial; the private sector is an important part of the solution and needs to remain engaged. I am keen to continue the dialogue with the shipping associations” said Maciej Popowski, Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service and EU Chair of the CGPCS, following a meeting with ECSA and other shipping representatives bodies.Anna Rosbach piracy-1-3

ECSA very much welcomes the vital action of the EU in the fight against piracy and has not ceased to look for new opportunities to bring this thorny issue in the spotlight.

Events such as the piracy photo exhibition hosted by MEP Anna Rosbach (Denmark, ECR) and organized by ECSA and the Danish Shopowners’ Association, which is on display this week in the European Parliament, aim at raising awareness among the general public and decision-makers alike.

Moreover, ECSA is in close contact with the Commission and the European External Action Service. In an attempt to strengthen the dialogue between the industry and the institutional players, ECSA often invites the latter to attend its Piracy Taskforce meetings, such as the one that took place yesterday.

Finally, a further step was taken today in the direction of a more holistic approach to maritime security. The EU is attempting to streamline its efforts with the adoption of its “integrated approach to global maritime security”, a strategy document presenting the Union’s vision with regard to maritime security interests and threats, and mapping out the areas in which cooperation between various maritime players can be enhanced.

The stated objective of this document is “to identify the maritime interests of the EU such as prevention of conflicts, protection of critical infrastructure, effective control of external borders, the protection of the global trade support chain and the prevention of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.”

“This new initiative is certainly laudable and is a testament to the EU’s willingness to address maritime security-related issues as a whole. We hope that the various elements and recommendations included in the strategy document will translate into concrete action. We also invite the Commission to take into account the specificities of the shipping industry and adopt a course of action that will maintain a global level playing field” said Patrick Verhoeven, ECSA Secretary General.


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