A regional maritime security coalition is
required to effectively fight piracy in the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian
Sea and the Greater Indian Ocean, experts at the piracy forum held at
the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research HQ in the Capital
proposed on Tuesday.
“We need to have a task force in the
region. We found that there is no concerted efforts in the region
especially those in the Red Sea, due to the presence of international
forces... there’s a need to coordinate and consolidate efforts in the
region to secure navigational movement. We need to have a unified Arab
strategy, following proposed steps,” Colonel Mahmoud Al Zarooni of the
UAE Naval Forces said.
“The Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea... requires intensified efforts
from all countries and a unified approach to end piracy,” he pointed
out. It calls for a unified approach that includes “taking Somalia out
of instability”; help develop the coast guards of some countries in the
region; sharing and collecting information and available technologies
such as satellites in locating ships; an integrated strategy that
includes Arab military presence; training of ships’ crew on how to
respond to attacks; identifying safe passages for ships; adoption of
unified agreement that allows the use of weapons; and the establishment
of courts in the region and legal procedures according to international
and human rights law. According to Dr Ahmed Salem Al Wahishi, director
of Yemen International Affairs Centre (YIAC), piracy is not only a
threat to the region but also to other countries.
The Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea are vital international trade
routes, and a large percentage of the world’s oil pass through these
areas. Thus, any challenge to maritime security in this region must be
addressed with the highest priority. “The threat is still ongoing. In
particular last year, about 8 million euros (Dh38.26 million) were paid
to Somali pirates to release Filipino and Danish sailors from the Gulf
of Aden,” he said.
Since 2011, acts of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea
have steadily decreased “with only a handful of successful hijackings”.
This year, only three attacks of pirates in these waters were reported,
and all were thwarted. In 2012, there were only five successfully
pirated ships (total ransom of $31.75 million) resulting from 35
attacks. In 2008, when there was a sudden spike in pirate activity in
the Gulf of Aden, 111 ships were attacked, 42 of which were successfully
pirated earning them up to $3 million per ship.
“This decrease is attributable to a number of factors; however, it is
clear that the efforts of Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151) are the
main reasons for the decline,” said Dr John Ballard, assistant to the
Commandant for Academic Affairs and dean of National Defence College at
the UAE Armed Forces.
With the success of curtailing piracy off the coast of East Africa,
the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Malacca have now become the newest
hotbed of piracy. “Nearly 20 per cent of global sea trade occurs in the
Indian Ocean and 15.2 million barrels of oil pass through the Strait of
Malacca each day. The global economy cannot afford to allow piracy to
expand in this crucial region... it is time for the world to develop new
types of seamless regional security initiatives,” said Dr Ballard.
He proposed the establishment of a “maritime Interpol” for the
greater Indian Ocean — an area stretching from the Red Sea to the Strait
of Malacca — which holds key maritime chokepoints, the greatest volume
of energy trade and high percentage of trade in many commodities and
Despite the success in thwarting piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the
Arabian Sea in the past three years, the varying laws governing piracy
offences and the absence of an international standard relating to piracy
remain to be a setback.