2/21/2012

Europe Prepares More Intense Crackdown on African Piracy

VOA

European powers are about to intensify their campaign against pirates active in the Gulf of Aden and other waters near Somalia.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced London will fund the construction of a new anti-piracy center in the Seychelles and provide the center's director.
Hague said the Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecutions Intelligence Coordination Center will allow the international community to “target the kingpins of piracy” and “hold to account those who finance and enable huge pirate operations.”
Britain says it will provide almost $870,000 to build the new center, which is scheduled to be operational in time for an expected seasonal increase in piracy across the region. The Netherlands and the Seychelles governments, along with the police agency INTERPOL, are also providing support for the initiative.
A report earlier this month from the U.S.-based One Earth Future foundation says Somali piracy cost the world economy nearly $7 billion last year, most of it spent to protect ships from hijackings.
The report said the largest amount, $2.7 billion, was for increased fuel costs as ships try to move quickly through piracy-prone areas.
A separate report released by the British parliament's foreign affairs committee earlier this year said Somali pirates have been paid more than $300 million in ransom during the past four years, but little is known about where the extorted money ends up.
It also said that even when pirates are detained, about 90 percent are released without being charged.
The chief of staff for the European Union's naval force said Monday an increasing number of pirate attacks are being defeated. But Phil Haslam warned pirates remain a serious threat.
“Piracy is not over, far from over. As I said, we are getting lucky this year or have had some success this year. We are enjoying temporal success, but there is no doubt that the funding for piracy is there, the impunity exists and they are still seeking to put to sea.''
There is also growing concern that the battle against piracy cannot be fought at sea alone. EU NAVFOR Commander, Rear Admiral Duncan Potts said part of the focus has to be on the land-based centers that finance piracy and provide pirates with safe havens.
“Piracy is but one of the symptoms of the failing state of Somalia and the critical capability of the pirates is to be able to operate from the shore in Somalia with relative impunity from the beaches there. And it is only when we deny that safe haven for them and an ability to take ships back to the coast to safe anchorages where they can negotiate ransoms will we fundamentally change the conditions that allow piracy, so to my mind an increased governance and security along the coast of Somalia is key to the long term solution.''
EU NAVFOR says about 70 percent of trading vessels now carry their own security forces, which has helped deter some attacks, but that more concerted efforts are needed.
The EU NAVFOR mission in Somalia is commissioned through the end of this year, covering almost 4,000,000 square kilometers, including south of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Western part of the Indian Ocean including the Seychelles.