By William Faria
DUBAI: Marine piracy has hit the global economies hard with an estimated $6 billion loss last year alone, experts in the industry revealed in Dubai on Wednesday during the opening of the 3rd UAE counter-piracy conference.
War-torn Somalia‚Äôs President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud while delivering a key note address at the Madinat Jumeirah Amphitheatre, venue of the conference noted that the Somali pirates operating in the Horn of Africa waters had pushed global trade costs up by billions of dollars annually, thus severely affecting the world‚Äôs economies.
The Somalia President revealed that although the menace had made international trade more expensive and complicated, the threat of piracy in one of the world‚Äôs most important trade lanes has also been an economic blow for neighbouring East African countries and the Gulf region, particularly in key sectors of tourism and fishing.
President Mohamud said the conference coincided with the first anniversary of his presidency and hopes that his country, totally destroyed by decades of war, will soon be rehabilitated.
According to the Combined Maritime Task Force in the Gulf of Aden, the region has experienced a 75 per cent drop in piracy over the past two years.
The Somali Head of State thanked the UAE authorities for their immense support to the Horn of Africa Nation.
Over 500 participants, comprising more than 20 minister-level government officials, senior government officials, executives of global maritime sector companies, the United Nations and experts, are currently attending the conference at Madinat Jumeirah Amphitheatre.
So far the UAE has dedicated more than Dhs220 million to Somalia in humanitarian aid, security assistance and funds,
The conference, under the theme of ‚Äúcountering maritime piracy: continued efforts for regional capacity building,‚Äù was officially inaugurated by UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The two-day conference in Dubai has been jointly organised by the UAE Ministry Foreign Affairs, global ports operator DP World and Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC).
Sheikh Abdullah, during his welcome speech, said the UAE had strengthened its military‚Äôs maritime security capability, engaged and trained private industry on best practices in areas such as port security, and used the legal system as a tool for prosecuting and deterring piracy-related offences.
The Foreign Minister said that in May this year, the UAE pledged $50 million for developmental projects in Somalia with confidence that this will contribute to providing a decent livelihood for Somali brothers.
Over the last four years, the UAE has contributed $120 million to Somalia by providing food, health services, shelters and drinking water supplies.
‚ÄúGovernments and international organisations will work together to focus on rebuilding institutions and identifying gaps that need to be filled,‚Äù said the Minister.
At the same time, DP World urged the private sector to identify mechanisms to further create an environment for sustainable development of Somalia‚Äôs emerging economy and address the root causes of maritime piracy.
The Somali President also said that his government was looking forward to revive the country‚Äôs economy by putting in place institutions such as the judiciary system, security system, maritime security, long with other sectors.
He said that although the international community and naval forces have succeeded in bringing down Somalia‚Äôs maritime piracy, there is now need to build a new country through the assistance of the international community.
The fledgling government of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud requires long-term support to rebuild the nation still struggling to find its feet after decades of civil war.
At the third counter-piracy conference starting in Dubai today, the UAE and other regional countries hope to build capacity and foster long-term development in the Horn of Africa.
The President said that Somalia welcomes cooperation with the EU to improve maritime security as part of the broader engagement of the EU in Somalia.