BY SYLIVESTER DOMASA
Piracy in the Indian Ocean is now considered the biggest threat to marine transportation in the East African sea routes, according to regional military officials, who warned that the problem has been reported to spread southwards‚Ä¶
To underline the seriousness of the problem, the heads and representatives of navy units from 89 countries gathered in Cape Town, South Africa, last year to discuss options to eliminate the scourge of piracy.
The fact that piracy activities seem to be targeting trade routes in Eastern and Southern Africa was, in fact, one of the biggest concerns of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium.
Approximately 90 per cent of trade destined for Africa is transported by sea. This percentage is higher within intra-African trade. It is within this context that one will understand how tangible the area‚Äôs vulnerability is.
Just soon after the meeting which underlined a number of observations from member countries participating, the continent has since then started witnessing gradual visit from international navy forces docking in different country for training of native navy forces to combat piracy.
The first in the modern history of¬† Russian ship visited the country last week.
Pacific Fleet warship, large anti-submarine destroyer ‚ÄúMarshal Shaposhnikov‚Äù paid a one week curtsey visit, with Russian sailors conducting anti-piracy exercises at the Dar es Salaam port.
In the framework of cooperation to combat piracy in the region, the Russian sailors give years of accumulated experience in this activity to their Tanzanian counterparts, sharing experiences in counter-piracy activity.
In exercises to combat piracy organized for the officers and personnel of the Tanzanian Navy.
Russian Anti-Submarine destroyer ‚ÄòMarshal Shaposhnikov‚Äô Commander-Captain A.A Kuznetsov told The Guardian¬† in an interview that attacks in the water has apparently been decreasing consistently.
He says military and technical experience that his crew and that of Tanzania shared can add a lot in fighting unlawfulness at sea.
The Commander-Captain Kuznetsov believes that the knowledge shared between the two parties will surely make the Indian Ocean a safer place, most especially at a time when trade and other non-trade vessels traveling in an Indian ocean and other waters such as the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea have increasingly been at a potential risk of falling into pirates‚Äô hands.
He informed that the Russian Navy Pacific Fleet task unit consists of large anti-submarine destroyer ‚ÄòMarshal Shaposhnikov‚Äô, rescue tug boat ‚ÄòAlatau‚Äô and seagoing tanker ‚ÄòIrkut‚Äô conducts anti-piracy mission and provides shipping security.
‚ÄúThe detachment left Vladivostok (home port of Russia) on October 2 2012. In its tour, the vessel has visited ports of India, Thailand, South Korea, Djibouti, Iran, and Seychelles,‚Äù he said noting that its mission was not accomplished until when it took part in joint exercise ‚ÄòINDRA-2012‚Äô with Indian Navy.
The governments of Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa have signed a tripartite pact to strengthen maritime security in Indian Ocean and fight piracy.
The inking of the agreement done by Tanzania Defense and National Service Minister Hussein Mwinyi and South African Defense Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, and Mozambican National Defense Minister Filipe Jacinto Nyussi was witnessed by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.
The Tanzania‚Äôs Peoples Defense Forces (TPDF) Navy Major Charles Mboma told Captain Commander Kuznetsov commending Russia‚Äôs efforts to equip members of the Tanzanian Navy with new skills in order to combat piracy across the Indian Ocean.
Major Mboma said that piracy has been a huge problem across East African waters, pirates change their way of operating every day, it is therefore equally important to step up their navy tactics in order to deal with the rising problem thoroughly.
All in all, lack of modern equipments to fight pirates has still been a challenge in different developing countries.
From time to time, President Kikwete promised to assist the Tanzania People‚Äôs Defense Force in taking part in the joint efforts courses.
It‚Äôs the recent tripartite signing ceremony he witnessed saying ‚ÄúWe are going to take all measures to keep our sea safe because more than 90 percent of our trade use the ocean route…At first we thought that the problem was confined only to the Horn of Africa, but now it has extended to the Southern part of the Indian Ocean.‚Äù
Knowing that piracy problem requires a combined initiative and cooperation to combat, the President commended South Africa and Mozambique accepting to cooperate with Tanzania in fighting the menace which is threatening the economies of the countries and beyond.
For his part, the Russian Commanding Officer Rear Admiral V.N Vdovenko underlined that the cooperation between armed forces marks an important step ahead carrying out the war against piracy.
In 2010 there were 29 incidents of piracy in Tanzania which came down to nine in 2011 after intervention. Piracy is a threat to the economy of the regional countries as it has resulted into increased transport costs, hiked fuel prices, bigger insurance bills, among others.
‚ÄúNo one is in this fight alone and no one nation has the means to go it alone,‚Äù said Rear Admiral Robert Higgs, chief of staff of the SA Navy.
The South African Navy, which is the only navy with the means to do deep water patrolling in the region, already, has a vessel patrolling the waters from South Africa to Tanzania.
The navy recently signed a trilateral agreement with Mozambique and Tanzania on further cooperation. But delegates warned that while cooperation is critical, nations must retain sovereignity over their coastal waters.
To help fight piracy, three sub regional information sharing centres (ISCs) have been created, in Sana‚Äôa, Yemen, Mombasa and Dar es Salaam. The Sana‚Äôa ISC covers Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia and the de facto States of Somaliland and Puntland. The Mombasa ISC covers Kenya, south and central Somalia, the Seychelles, the Maldives and Mauritius.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN