Cooperation, diplomacy and patrols effectively tackle Somali piracy – general


Regional cooperation, maritime patrols, legislation and diplomacy are what is needed to successfully fight piracy, according to the chief of the Tanzanian Navy, Major General Saidi Shabani Omar.

“The breakout of the piracy in the Indian Ocean opened a new era of cooperation in the SADC [Southern Africa Development Community] region,” Omar said yesterday during the second day of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) in Cape Town.
“Sensing the danger which is facing us, seeing the escalation of piracy from north to south and in the centre of the Indian Ocean, we in the SADC were forced to take steps against that. Among the steps we formulated the maritime security strategy of the SADC and on operationalisation of this strategy we started on bi- and multilateral agreements.” In August last year SADC heads adopted the SADC Maritime Security Strategy during a meeting in Angola. “Last month we, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa, signed an MoU on the [issue of] maritime security,” Omar added.

The spread of piracy to SADC nations is an issue raised by Defence and Military Veterans minister Lindiwe Sisulu at the opening of IONS on Wednesday. She noted that Tanzania has reported 57 attacks by pirates in its territorial waters between February 2011 and February 2012, which was “an unprecedented number, but one that is indicative of the relocation of piracy to the SADC ocean.” As a result of this, the South African Navy is patrolling the waters from South Africa to Tanzania and has a vessel permanently deployed there. “We have created an environment of confidence in Nacala and Pemba” in Mozambique, said Chief of the South African Navy, Vice Admiral Refiloe J Mudimu.

Omar earlier reported that the effects of piracy had caused a third fewer ships to enter Dar es Salaam port, increasing the cost of living and commodities. Oil exploration recently commenced in Mozambique and Tanzania, but explorers require protection from pirates, which is very expensive. “The biggest impact of piracy is economic,” Omar said.

It has been estimated that piracy costs the global economy between US$7 and US$12 billion per year, mainly due to insurance, which has in some cases gone up tenfold, the cost of protection and the rerouting of ships.
“Africa’s prosperity at sea and ashore depends on maritime security,” said Mudimu. He added that the biggest shortcoming in fighting maritime insecurity in the region is that navies lack assets to patrol the length and breadth of their waters. “Governments need to invest in their navies to take charge of their waters.”
“The centre of the problem is fighting piracy and other maritime crimes,” Omar said. “In so doing we managed to conduct exercises together, [involving] Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania, this time in Tanzanian waters last year, from September to 2 October. It was a successful exercise and soon after the exercise we captured seven pirates…so it shows that that has been a success and now we are putting in place our rules of engagement so we can do these operations together, starting from patrols up to hot pursuits.”
“We intend to remove the borders because pirates have no borders. So we can pursue a pirate from Tanzania to South Africa to ensure the pirate cannot escape,” Omar said. He added that fighting pirates is a bit difficult – “I attended several naval courses but I was never taught how a frigate and a destroyer can fight a skiff.”
“We have to make sure that piracy comes to an end,” Omar urged IONS delegates. “Bringing piracy to an end means we need to do more. We need to regulate our rules of engagement.” He said that politicians must do the work on their side but the most important thing for the militaries of the region is to make the seas a difficult place for pirates to operate. “We still have to work hard to make sure the pirates are not taking the ships.”

As many navy chiefs have pointed out during the Symposium, it is also necessary to fight piracy on land. Omar suggested that politicians need to improve conditions in Somalia so that Somalia can take part in combating piracy. “We in the Indian Ocean with these many countries have to work hard to bring Somalia to be one of the members of IONS. How we bring Somali to one of the members of IONS is to make Somali a clean country. Politicians will do it on land, we will do it on the sea.”
“I can see that two things are essential. One is Somali pirates or Somali piracy must be left in Somalia…Secondly, this piracy is becoming a business and businesses normally attract businessmen. So if we do not do much or more than we are doing now, the act of escalation is obvious, which will attract other people other than Somalis. Somali pirates must be forced to remain Somali.”
“Whoever controls the sea controls the world,” Omar concluded. “If we won’t work harder pirates will control the sea and will control the world.”