Conference warns against complacency over Somali piracy


Delegates at the recent Shared Awareness and De-confliction (SHADE) conference have warned that complacency will see a rapid resurgence in the scourge of piracy, especially off the Horn of Africa.

Ten years of counter-piracy operations has seen successful outcomes resulting from the partnerships between military navies and commercial shipping working closely together. Key to this success is the bi-annual Shared Awareness and De-confliction conference with the 43rd meeting having just completed.

Commodore Steve Dainton RN, the Deputy Commander of Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and UK Maritime Component Commander, opened the conference, highlighting: “The 43rd SHADE provides the perfect opportunity for the maritime community to meet and discuss the on-going and combined efforts of our counter piracy operations. We have to recognise that, but for our efforts and for adherence to Best Management Practice, conditions in Somalia remain such that piracy could resurge at any point.”

Co-chaired by EU Naval Forces (EU NAVFOR) and the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), the main aim of SHADE is to coordinate counter-piracy efforts of all stakeholders involved and to increase the common understanding of maritime security issues affecting the Southern Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Western Indian Ocean. Overall 126 attendees representing multi-national military counter-piracy operations, independent deployers such as China, India and Russia, the maritime industry and UN agencies and organisations discussed transparently the challenges and how counter-piracy efforts can best be aligned to ensure the free flow of commerce.

Ongoing commitment by the maritime industry was marked by strong support to the SHADE mechanism by shipping partners with the attendance of more than ten shipping Company Security Officers and shipping industry associations.

The Indian Navy representative described their flexibility in counter-piracy operations in the high-risk area and a desire to increase information sharing and cooperation with other active counter-piracy militaries. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy representative emphasised the high level of protection the PLA(N) have given to vulnerable shipping transiting the high-risk area and the ongoing progress witnessed in recent exercises with EU NAVFOR. In addition, the Russian representative disclosed how the Russian Naval presence in the high-risk area has helped to deter piracy safeguarding the free flow of trade. Much debate ensued on how to improve information sharing with the Omani representative highlighting the opportunities for the future.

Colonel Mark Totten, the co-chair from EU NAVFOR said: “Countering piracy involves every interested party working together. By sharing information and working collaboratively, we can keep piracy suppressed.” He went onto say: “It is essential that international maritime trade continues to use Best Management Practices in order to mitigate the threat of being pirated off the Horn of Africa.”

Closing the conference, Commander Maxwell USN from CMF, said: “We have been able to discuss counter piracy through the development of best practices, whilst coordinating and de-conflicting our activities to ensure that international maritime trade in our region can continue to go about its lawful business, unhindered. All of this proves to me the importance of these SHADE conferences.”