By Faisal Darem in Sanaa
Yemen is strengthening efforts to fight piracy and armed robbery on nearby seas alongside 10 other countries through the Regional Maritime Information Sharing Centre in Sanaa.
The centre was established in 2011 but until July 2013 it lacked a presidential decree specifying its duties, said centre head Mohammed al-Majaashi.
The centre now seeks to expand the scope of its activities to include ensuring maritime safety in general, for example combating marine pollution and illegal immigration, and undertaking rescue operations.
Al-Shorfa spoke with al-Majaashi about the centre’s activities, goals and importance.
Al-Shorfa:¬†What was the origin of the centre?
Mohammed al-Majaashi:¬†The centre was established pursuant to the resolutions of the Djibouti Code of Conduct on the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, signed by 20 countries in the region and approved by Yemen in 2009.
One of the [Code’s] articles stipulated establishing three information exchange centres — the first in Sanaa, the second in Mombasa, Kenya, and the third in Dar es-Salaam, Tanzania — with the Sanaa centre serving as a regional centre and the other two as national focal points. The Code also stipulated that signatory countries establish national communication nodes to relay information to and from the centre, and, of course, impart this information to the authorities in their countries.
Yemen, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates are all member states at the Sanaa centre.
We began work at the centre in February 2011, but the centre did not operate in an official capacity until a decree was issued in July pledging Yemeni commitment to international and regional partners in fighting maritime crimes in all its forms.
Al-Shorfa:¬†What are the centre’s objectives?
Al-Majaashi:¬†The centre aims to improve information exchange regarding piracy and armed robbery incidents on ships among the countries of the region, information exchange centres and the [International] Maritime Organisation (IMO). It will also facilitate the receipt, transmission, circulation and dissemination of information relating to these incidents to identify and prosecute the criminals behind them; and urge regional countries to enter into agreements with the IMO and other such international organisations, to exchange information and fight piracy.
It also aims to raise security awareness in the maritime environment given the crucial importance of the waterways along Yemen’ seacoasts and regional countries.
Al-Shorfa: How does the centre operate?
Al-Majaashi:¬†The centre receives reports on maritime safety and security through the national communication nodes in centres in member countries and other centres in the world, and then disseminates them to concerned authorities, who in turn convey to the centre the measures they will take to ensure the ship rescues and other operations go successfully.
Al-Shorfa:¬†Why do you seek to expand the scope of centre activities?
Al-Majaashi:¬†We want to raise awareness and ensure maritime safety and security in general, as centre activities were previously limited to fighting piracy and armed robbery of ships.
In this regard, the 11 member states will meet in October this year to authorise extending activities to include marine pollution, illegal immigration and ship rescue operations in cases of fire or other attacks.