Safeguarding Seafarers

The text of the speech delivered by Koji Sekimizu, Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization, at the ReCAAP ISC Piracy and Sea Robbery Conference 2012

Safeguarding Seafarers: A Shared Responsibility

Safeguarding Seafarers: A Shared Responsibility
Speech by Koji Sekimizu, Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization
Singapore, 26 April 2012

Excellency, Distinguished delegates, Ladies and gentlemen,

As the specialized agency of the United Nations with, among other things, a responsibility for the safety and security of international shipping, the International Maritime Organization has been among those actively advocating and working towards a coordinated approach to combating maritime piracy. This is based on our long involvement in such initiatives, not just Somali-based but in other parts of the world too.

In this very region, for example, IMO was instrumental in establishing the framework for collaboration among the littoral States of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore and the South China Sea that proved so successful in helping to almost eradicate piracy in what used to be the world’s major piracy hotspot.

Here in south-east Asia, the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) was the first regional Government-to-Government agreement to promote and enhance co-operation against piracy and armed robbery. ReCAAP entered into force in 2006 and many of the positive lessons learned from it are now incorporated in the Djibouti Code of Conduct, which is providing a framework for information sharing, review of national legislation, training and capacity building in the region affected by Somali piracy.

For example, under the Djibouti Code, three Information Sharing Centres (ISCs) have been established, in Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania, Mombasa, Kenya and Sana’a, Yemen. The three ISCs were declared operational during the first half of 2011 and have, since, actively collected and disseminated piracy-related information.

This clearly draws on the model of the ReCAAP ISC here in Singapore (and I note with great appreciation that Singapore has reaffirmed its commitment to international co-operation to combat piracy and armed robbery against ships with the recent announcement that it will continue to host the ReCAAP ISC for a further five years).

In November 2011, the piracy information-sharing infrastructure under the Djibouti Code was significantly enhanced with the signing, here in Singapore, of an important agreement whereby the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre has joined the Djibouti Code information sharing network resulting in a major expansion of the reporting area to cover the Indian Ocean coastal States.

The agreement established a set of standard operating procedures for communicating and exchanging piracy-related information. I am certain that such an agreement would prove invaluable in the continuing efforts to stem the tide of piracy and armed robbery against shipping.

Looking further ahead, again in the context of the Djibouti Code of Conduct, IMO plans to address the protection of the Southern Shipping Lanes through the Mozambique Channel and southern and western Indian Ocean. The aim is that the signatory States to the Djibouti Code of Conduct will work together, supported by IMO and other development partners, to create a regional co-operative mechanism to this effect.

The establishment of a regional training centre in Djibouti, in partnership with the EU, is another significant, tangible step towards creating regional capability to counteract pirate activities. When operational, the Djibouti Regional Training Centre will be available for regional training and for the training of Somali coast guards and other law enforcement personnel.

Considerable emphasis is now being placed by IMO on establishing the capacity for full implementation of the Djibouti Code of Conduct. This was noted, and encouraged, in the communiqué adopted by the conference on Somalia that took place in London in February.

Since the beginning of this year, I have met UN Secretary-General Ban on a number of occasions to discuss how we can strengthen capacity building for anti-piracy activities. Mr. Ban agreed that capacity building in Somalia and neighbouring countries should be enhanced through co-operation between IMO and the UN, UN specialized agencies and other relevant international organizations, founded on IMO’s existing capacity-building activities under the Djibouti Code of Conduct. With his encouragement and support, we are now preparing a number of important events in mid-May.

First, IMO will be hosting a ministerial meeting on 14 May, to review the progress being made towards implementation of the Djibouti Code of Conduct.

Then, on 15 May, an IMO Conference on capacity building to counter piracy off the coast of Somalia will be held, and I will use this occasion to invite all UN agencies and the EU to discuss how we can further strengthen our co-operation in capacity-building efforts.

And, on 16 May, we are holding a high-level segment of the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee to discuss the many facets of the issue of arms on board merchant vessels, for which there is a clear need for a full, high-level policy debate among IMO Member Governments. There are a number of related issues which require further consideration if practical solutions are to be found and appropriate information and guidance are to be promulgated.

At the High-level segment of the MSC we need to discuss a number of important policy issues:

  • how to regulate security guard providers;
  • the issue of innocent passage;
  • transfer of weapons;
  • how to handle and treat weapons in ports;
  • the authority of shipmasters;
  • rules of engagement;
  • certification for security guard providers
  • matters that should be left to national regulations and industry self-regulation or are international regulations necessary?

All of these will be the subject of debate during the high-level segment of the MSC on 16 May, and I am confident that this will provide the right venue for discussion on this very important issue and enable significant progress to be made in the international community.


Aside from the Djibouti Code of Conduct, IMO is working in many ways to strengthen the protection of persons, ships and cargoes in piracy-infested areas and also preserve the integrity of shipping lanes of strategic importance and significance.

IMO and industry guidelines, in the so-called Best Management Practices, have provided practical measures to protect vessels and steps have been taken to ensure that ships’ crews are aware of how to access naval protection and implement effectively the preventive, evasive and defensive measures recommended by IMO and the industry.
IMO has helped promote greater levels of coordination among navies, and further co-operation between and among States, regions and organizations and the coordination of military and civil efforts.

IMO will also continue to support the work of the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) in implementing the National Security and Stabilization Plan in areas within IMO’s competence; and to facilitate the dialogue between the Transitional Federal Government and the regional authorities through the so-called “Kampala Process”.
Such activities may include assisting Somalia to accede to, and implement, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, (SOLAS) and the ISPS Code.

Implementation of the ISPS Code will be a catalyst for the development of port security programmes and procedures to enable ports in Somalia to comply with international standards, thus promoting trade by sea and providing additional security for humanitarian shipments.

Secure port areas could also serve as a basis for the expansion of security-controlled zones in coastal areas, policed by land-based security forces, which could eventually form the basis of an effective coastal monitoring regime. They could, in due course, also serve as secure operating bases for maritime police, coast guards and fishing vessels.

This latter point is very important, since it touches on the need to create viable alternative sources of income for those Somalis who have turned, or may be tempted to turn, to crime. In this respect, and, again, through the Kampala Process, we will undertake to select appropriate officials from all regions of Somalia to study at IMO’s World Maritime University and International Maritime Law Institute, so that they can develop the Somali maritime administration in the future.

In partnership with the World Customs Organization (WCO) and others, we will also seek to develop transparent customs and clearance procedures and to facilitate maritime transport through Somali ports.

And, in partnership with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), we will endeavour to help develop a sustainable Somali fisheries sector. Key areas for IMO could include fishing vessel safety, general seamanship training, assistance with developing maritime situational awareness and developing maritime law enforcement and fishery-protection capability.

IMO will also continue with its capacity-building programme in the region in support of core objectives under IMO competence, for example the enhancement of maritime safety and the development of search and rescue facilities, and of maritime situational awareness.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Somali-based piracy is a manifestation of the widespread and deep-rooted problems that beset that country and its people. It is a symptom; and, while a symptom can be treated and its effects can be alleviated, real progress can only be made by addressing the cause.

We are all here today because we share a collective duty and a collective responsibility to do whatever we can to combat piracy.

None of us can achieve this alone; but each of us has a contribution to make, and IMO’s focus and commitment remain as strong as ever.

Thank you.

Source: IMO

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