The sea is a formidable asset for Tanzania. Worldwide, 80 per cent of international trade relies on maritime transport.
For Tanzania these figures might even be higher and the future development of off-shore oil and gas reserves could significantly boost the Tanzanian economy. But, the sea is accessible to all.
Most with good intentions but some seek to exploit it for illegal activity and it takes little imagination to understand that the benefits that the sea brings to the people of Tanzania can easily be undermined if the sea is not a safe place for business to operate.
Threats to maritime security come in many ways and forms, but in the past years the threat of piracy has been a particular concern in the Gulf of Aden and the Western Indian Ocean.
Attacks on vessels by Somali pirates became a serious matter in 2008 when there were 24 attacks on merchant vessels ‚Äì with fourteen successfully hijacked for ransom.
Piracy activity exponentially increased the following year when 173 attacks were registered, with 46 ships hijacked.
Attacks reached a peak in 2011 with 176 attacks but of these only 25 were successful. Since then the number of both attacks and successful hijackings has significantly declined.
In 2012, only 34 attacks took place and only five of those ships were hijacked. So far this year, only two attacks have taken place; both of them failed.
These figures are indicative of the effectiveness of the joint efforts by the international community, regional states and private sector operators to respond to the threat of piracy.
The EU has made a significant contribution through its counter-piracy mission Operation ATALANTA which has, since 2009, has used navy warships to protect World Food Programme food aid deliveries to Somalia to patrol the sea areas most affected by piracy, disrupting pirate action groups and protecting international shipping.
The EU Naval Force (ATALANTA) has also been working with industrial partners and the international community to develop and promote best practices for seafarers to make their ships less vulnerable to attacks ‚Äì these include the use of water sprays, barbed wire, safe rooms for the crew and manoeuvring the ship to make it difficult for pirate to get aboard.
The EU is also working with its partners in the region to increase their own capacity to counter the threat of piracy and other maritime security risks.
Though perhaps not as visible as piracy, human trafficking, arms and drugs smuggling, illegal fishing and marine pollution are all threats to the region ‚Äì and if unchecked these will directly impact on the future prosperity of Tanzania.
The continued development of regional capacity for maritime security is essential if Tanzania is to ensure the safety of the sea and defeat the threats to legitimate business.
Ambassador Filiberto Sebregondi is the Head of the EU Delegation to Tanzania.