The European Union’s EUCAP Nestor capacity building mission has provided equipment and training to the naval forces and judiciaries of the Seychelles, Tanzania and Djibouti as it attempts to strengthen maritime security in the region.
On 10 and 11 February, EUCAP Nestor, in cooperation with the Djiboutian Ministry of Justice, organized the first training on “maritime crime – maritime safety and security” for Djiboutian prosecutors and judges. Also present during the two-day workshop were representatives from the Coast Guard and Navy.
“International and national rules on the Law of the Sea are becoming increasingly important as part of our work according to the geostrategic position of our country,” said the Secretary General of the Ministry of Justice, Abdi Ismael Hersi, at the opening of the training. The workshop will be followed by others organised by EUCAP Nestor.
EUCAP Nestor conducted similar training with Tanzania, with eight officers from the Tanzania Maritime Police (TMP) and eight officers from the Tanzania People’s Defence Force/Navy (TPDF/Navy), on February 17 starting a two week Criminal Investigation training course organized jointly by the TMP, the TPDF and EUCAP Nestor.
The training focuses on the collection and handling of evidence, EUCAP Nestor said. When officers arrest suspected criminals, like smugglers or pirates, their action has to be lawful and the evidence has to be collected in a way that it can be used to prosecute and convict those brought to justice in Tanzania.
“The Tanzanian authorities and EUCAP Nestor have joined hands to increase maritime security in the region,” said Eisso Kronenberg, EUCAP Nestor liaison officer in Dar Es Salaam. “I took up my work a couple of weeks ago and I am glad to see the excellent cooperation and the enthusiasm of my Tanzanian counterparts and of the participants in the training. I am looking forward to more joint activities in this area in the near future”.
Since December 2013, EUCAP Nestor has deployed a liaison officer to Tanzania, currently hosted by the EU Delegation in Dar Es Salaam. The training is the second one held by EUCAP Nestor, the first having taken place in December 2013. The mission is mandated to work with the main actors responsible for maritime security in each of the host nations. Typically this includes the Navy, the Coast Guard, Maritime Police, prosecutors, judges and other actors in this field. Mission experts provide advice, mentoring and training, which can include law drafting and development of organizational structures.
Last month EUCAP Nestor focused its attention on the Seychelles, starting with a counter-piracy exercise on January 10 together with the EU Naval Force frigate ITS Libeccio, the Seychelles Coast Guard, Air Force and Police Force.
The exercise involved the boarding of a suspected pirate skiff that had attacked a local fishing boat. The ‘pirates’ were disarmed and taken into custody, along with evidence from the skiff. The Seychelles Coast Guard then handed over the pirates and evidence to the Police Force.
Speaking on completion of the exercise, the Commanding Officer of the ITS Libeccio, Commander Stefano Calvetti stated, “This was a highly successful exercise. Everything went as planned, and our Seychelles partners clearly demonstrated their high level of professionalism in fighting piracy.”
“The Seychelles is a showcase for the region in maritime security and counter-piracy,” said Etienne de Poncins, Head of Mission for EUCAP Nestor. “As the Seychelles’ builds its capacity, it is increasingly becoming an exporter of know-how and expertise. The common efforts of the maritime security agencies of the Seychelles and the EU are an important step in the fight against piracy.”
“We are very grateful to our European friends and partners for their support in maritime security and counter-piracy,” said Lt Col Leslie Benoiton, the Operation Officer of the Seychelles Coast Guard. “While the number of pirate attacks may have decreased, the threat of piracy remains real. We must remain vigilant and ready to supress it”.
A primary objective of the exercise was to give the Coast Guard the chance to practice the collection and handling of evidence. EUCAP Nestor experts have been working closely with the Coast Guard to train their officers in evidence handling. Advisors were joined by a Supreme Court Judge and two prosecutors who were on the Coast Guard vessel Andromache to witness the exercise and give their perspective on how to handle evidence so that it is admissible in court.
“Pirates must not only be stopped. Evidence must also be collected in a proper manner since this is key to successful convictions,” said Lt Col Benoiton. “These exercises are extremely valuable as they provide opportunities for the Coast Guard to practice its routines for gathering evidence and handing it over to the police.”
In order to strengthen the judicial side of the fight against piracy, EUCAP Nestor on January 23 handed over laptops, computer tablets, GPSs, and navigation and information systems (ECDIS) to the Seychelles authorities.
The equipment for the Coast Guard – GPSs, ECDIS, and AIS units – will be used on their base and on vessels. It will improve the Coast Guard’s maritime awareness, in particular of the positions of ships in Seychelles waters. This will enable the Coast Guard to be more cognisant of and responsive to incidents at high sea, EUCAP Nestor said. The Coast Guard is also receiving ruggedized laptops that are designed to be used in rough outdoor conditions.
The Supreme Court, the Magistrates Court, and the Court of Appeals will be receiving 20 computer tablets. The tablets will have software installed that will enable users to search digital versions of Seychelles legislation. This will make it easier for the Judges to quickly access key legislation in their work. The Attorney-General’s Office will also receive laptops and a large copier/printer to facilitate the work of the prosecutors in prosecuting piracy cases.
“It is again proof of the EU’s commitment to the Seychelles in our common struggle against piracy,” said de Poncins. “This equipment will strengthen the Seychelles’ capacity to ensure maritime security and to fight piracy. Providing light equipment is a core part of EUCAP Nestor’s mission to build capacity and improve capabilities.”
A day later 21 privates officially began the 27-week Basic Training Programme for the Seychelles Coast Guard. “This training programme is really a first of its kind for the Seychelles Coast Guard,” said de Poncins. “It provides a comprehensive programme covering the full range of Coast Guard functions. This programme could become a model for the other countries in the region.”
EUCAP Nestor said it has worked closely with the Coast Guard in developing the programme, its syllabus, and the individual modules. EUCAP Nestor will also be providing experts to support the Coast Guard trainers who will deliver the training.
“The Basic Training Programme will provide our men and women in the Coast Guard with the wide range of tools they need to perform their duties,” said Lt Col Dine, the newly appointed Commanding Officer of the Seychelles Coast Guard. “It will build our capacity and enable us to ensure maritime security in our waters. I am grateful to our European partners for their unwavering support.”
The inauguration was held in the SPDF Defence Academy on Isle Perseverance next to the Coast Guard base. In attendance were the 21 trainees along with a number of dignitaries, including the Ambassador of France, Madame Genevieve Iancu.
The programme includes modules such as Maritime Domain Awareness; Seychelles maritime regulations and legislation; seamanship and navigation; marine engineering; border and excise control; maritime safety; maritime security; crime investigation; environmental response; and fisheries enforcement.
An important element in the programme is to ensure that it is self-sustainable and can become a regular feature of the Coast Guard’s annual training.