European Commission Piracy Event

The seminar analysed the reinforcement of self-protection measures. Sensitive topics included shipbuilding standards and the technology available for discouraging attacks as well as the very delicate subject of using privately hired, armed security personnel on board ships.

European Commission confronts piracy threat

The European Commission organised an event concerning piracy and armed robbery on March 28 and 29.

This seminar, organised in co-operation with the Danish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, brought together officials from the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS), along with key officials including Mr Koji Sekimizu, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organisation and Mr Brian Simpson, Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Transport and Tourism.

The seminar analysed the reinforcement of self-protection measures. Sensitive topics included shipbuilding standards and the technology available for discouraging attacks as well as the very delicate subject of using privately hired, armed security personnel on board ships.

A round table on the human cost of piracy examined the impact of piracy on seamen’s work and lives and on seafarers’ career prospects in general. In addition, insurance and maritime transport specialists analysed the economic effects of piracy on the maritime transport industry and discussed its financial consequences on worldwide maritime trade.

Mr Siim Kallas, Vice President of the European Commission, said: “The threat piracy is posing is of great concern to the European Union. Maritime transport carries 80 per cent of world trade. More than 40 per cent of the world’s merchant fleet is controlled by companies from the EU Member States. It causes disruption to trade and fishing and seafarers pay too high a price in human suffering.

I welcome the efforts of the international community in general and the International Maritime Organisation in particular. I do not forget the major impact of European commitment, whether via the EU NAFGOR – ATALANTA operation or traditional instruments of European aid. I am convinced that we need a comprehensive response, considering that at least 80% of all international trade relies on maritime transport. The European Union will remain fully engaged.”

The European Commission supports ATALANTA, active since December 2008 and recently extended. With IMO and the maritime industry, the EU developed Best Management Practices (BMP), which offer practical advice on how to minimise the risk for ships of attack by pirates.

The Commission now monitors the implementation of the BMP on EU Member States flagged ships, in accordance with our maritime security legislation. Kallas says that by sending weekly “polite reminders” to those Member States whose ships are found to be not compliant with BMP, the rate of “non-compliance” has fallen dramatically.

“We witness an extension of the sea area where Somali pirates operate, and with it a serious difficulty for the scarce naval resources available to protect this shipping lane; hence, the importance of employing military Vessel Protection Detachments. But we also, increasingly, find Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel on board ships crossing the High Risk Area off the coasts of Somalia,” Kallas continues. “In my view, the use of such private armed protection is among the most pressing items for discussion. We cannot shy away from taking this issue up – complex as it may be and worried as we may be about the risks of spiralling violence. I see clear advantage of, and indeed, need for a common international regulation. Regulation will help establishing trusted communication lines between private security and military forces in the area.”

Mark Hankey, CEO at Flag Victor – a service that allows buyers and sellers of maritime security services to interact in a secure manner – told Global Response that common standards are vital. “The effective, enforced and globally acceptable implementation of common standards for private maritime security companies is a huge but necessary step to ensure professionalism, safety and security for all serving in high risk areas at sea. The UK Government is pioneering one such initiative under the governance of its Security In Complex Environments Group (SCEG) – this could provide a benchmark for other countries to follow.”

Hankey also stressed that it should not be forgotten that a comprehensive response includes all aspects of industry and government “from a trained member of a ship’s crew acting as a lookout all the way through to the geopolitical stage.”

In May the 90th Session of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee will be held in London.

Source: Global Response

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