Secretary-General's report on piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia

25 Oct 2013

Secretary-General's report on piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia

New York - The present report is submitted pursuant to paragraph 34 of Security Council resolution 2077 (2012), in which the Council requested me to report on the implementation of that resolution and on the situation with respect to piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia. In addition, in its presidential statement of 19 November 2012 (S/PRST/2012/24), the Council requested me to include in my report information concerning the implementation of that statement, including any new information and observations on possible ways to advance international efforts to combat the problem of piracy and armed robbery at sea and associated hostage-taking.

2. The present report provides an update on major developments on those issues since my previous report, of 22 October 2012 (S/2012/783). The assessment and observations in the report are based on information provided by Member States and regional organizations, in conformity with paragraph 33 of resolution 2077 (2012). Information was provided by Finland, Germany, Greece, Israel, Japan, Lithuania, Madagascar, Norway, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America, as well as by the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The United Nations system, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea were also consulted.

II. Main developments on piracy off the coast of Somalia

3. The number of reported incidents of piracy off the coast of Somalia has declined sharply and is at its lowest level since 2006. The latest reports from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) show a significant decrease in pirate attacks and hijackings in 2013 compared with 2012 and 2011. During the first nine months of 2012, 99 attacks took place, while during the first nine months of 2013, 17 attacks occurred against ships in the waters off the coast of Somalia, in which pirates were able to briefly hijack two dhows. The last large commercial vessel to have been hijacked and held for ransom by Somali pirates was the MT Smyrni, which was taken in May 2012.

4. A number of measures have led to a decline in attacks: improved international and regional cooperation on counter-piracy efforts, including better intelligence- and information-sharing; targeted actions by the international naval presence to discourage and disrupt Somali pirates; increased application of IMO guidance and of the Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia-based Piracy,developed by the shipping industry; and prosecution of suspected pirates and imprisonment of those convicted. The adoption of self-protection and situational awareness measures by commercial ships, including the deployment of privately contracted armed security personnel on board vessels and vessel protection detachments, are also believed to have contributed to the decrease in piracy attacks.

5. Nevertheless, ships still do not transit peacefully off the coast of Somalia. Piracy and armed robbery in the area continue to endanger the safety of seafarers, fishermen and passengers, as well as the delivery of humanitarian aid. Somali pirates have adopted a “business model” aimed at hijacking vessels and crews and holding them hostage for many months in order to extract ransoms. As at 17 October2013, two small vessels and 60 seafarers were still being held by Somali pirates, mostly ashore; in some cases, their whereabouts are unknown.

6. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Somali pirates reportedly collected between $36 million and $40.5 million in ransoms in 2012, with the average payment estimated at over $4 million per ransom. The ransoms paid for the MT Smyrni, which was released at the beginning of 2013, are reported to have totalled $13 million. The non-governmental organization Oceans Beyond Piracy has estimated that, in 2012, $63.5 million was spent to cover the costs of ransom delivery vessel damage from time in captivity and the fees of negotiators, consultants and attorneys, as well as the ransoms. According to
UNODC and World Bank estimates, Somali pirates received between $339 million and $413 million in ransoms between April 2005 and December 2012.

7. According to the World Bank report The Pirates of Somalia: Ending the Threat, Rebuilding a Nation, as at May 2012 some 3,741 seafarers of 125 nationalities had been taken hostage by Somali pirates; some of them had been in detention for as long as 1,178 days. Somalia-based piracy has resulted in an estimated yearly loss to the world economy of $18 billion. Since 2006, annual visitor arrivals in affected East African coastal countries has dropped by almost 6.5 per cent, while the tuna catch in affected areas has dropped by 26.8 per cent
annually and annual fisheries exports have fallen by 23.8 per cent.

8. Given the substantial ransoms already collected by pirate financiers, it is estimated that pirates retain the capacity to attack vessels. It has been reported that several pirate financiers are engaging in other criminal activities as well and that they have built significant paramilitary capacities on land, and thus have the potential to destabilize the region.

III. Hostage release and support efforts

9. Hostages held by Somali pirates endure dire conditions in captivity; sometimes, pirates torture and threaten hostages in an effort to extract the maximum ransom. The incentive for some shipowners to assist in the release of hostages is low owing to huge ransom demands and efforts to eliminate the incentive for hijackings. In some instances, shipowners became insolvent because they cannot charter vessels that are held by pirates for long periods of time. Flag States and States of the nationality of the crews are often reluctant to become involved. In these circumstances, securing the release and return of hostages may be left to
families, friends and welfare organizations.

10. According to the working paper entitled “The human cost of maritime piracy 2012”, which was prepared by the non-governmental organizations Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme and Oceans Beyond Piracy, as well as the non-profit organization International Maritime Bureau, all hostages held captive by Somali pirates at the time of writing had been held for over one year and were considered to be at high risk owing to physical abuse and health problems resulting from limited access to food, water and medical support for over a year. Upon release, the vast majority of crew members report having undergone some form of
physical violence and psychological abuse, while others have experienced direct threats of execution or other extreme stressors. Crew members and their families also face financial difficulties owing to disruptions to or the cessation of the payment of wages.

11. To address these humanitarian challenges, in November 2012 the Board of the Trust Fund to Support Initiatives of States Countering Piracy off the Coast of Somalia approved, on an exceptional basis, the Hostage Support Programme to provide medical care, accommodation, food, clothes and welfare items to isolated groups of hostages during the release phase and to support them in returning home swiftly. The programme, implemented by UNODC and the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) until the end of the latter’s mandate in June 2013, has so far provided humanitarian assistance and recovery and repatriation support to
93 hostages. In order to ensure that hostage data and the accounts of hostages’ experiences or testimonies are not lost, the Programme has initiated a project to collect accounts of hostages to develop best practices for assisting seafarers who have been held hostage or are vulnerable to capture. The debriefing of former hostages by INTERPOL has proven successful in a number of ongoing investigations. INTERPOL has developed a project to debrief released hostages in support of investigations that will lead to the prosecution of the hostages’ captors and encourage States to open investigations against the perpetrators.

12. In November 2012, the Hostage Support Programme provided assistance for the repatriation of two fishermen of Seychelles who had been held in captivity in Somalia for a year. In late November, it provided humanitarian support to 19 hostages released by the navy of the Netherlands from a vessel captured by Somali pirates. In late December 2012, the Programme coordinated the repatriation of 22 seafarers from Ghana, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Sudan and Yemen who had been held hostage on board the MV Iceberg-1 for more than 1,000 days.

For those States that did not have the resources to recover hostages, the Programme stepped in, expending around $50,000. On 10 January 2013, one Sri Lankan and two Syrian hostages from the MV Orna were recovered from Mogadishu by the Programme. The Sri Lankan seafarer travelled to Nairobi on a United Nations aircraft, while the two Syrians boarded commercial flights to Beirut. On 12 January 2013, three remaining Syrian hostages were released in Adado and flown to Beirut for onward repatriation.

13. On 6 July 2013, the MV Albedo, which had been held by Somali pirates since November 2010, sank. Despite the hazardous and fragile condition of the vessel, 15 seafarers had been kept hostage on board. Eleven hostages from Bangladesh, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of) and Sri Lanka were transferred to another location, while four crew members are reported missing. The Hostage Support Programme is working with the Federal Government of Somalia, regional administrations, local leaders, the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme, the European Union, INTERPOL and concerned Member States to determine the precise details and status of the seafarers and update their families. In August and September 2013, medical support, including two visits by a doctor, was for the first time delivered to these seafarers through local contacts. The Hostage Support Programme is also seeking to re-establish contact with crews from the MV Asphalt Venture and the MV Prantalay-12, both of which have been held for more than three years, and other hostages. This sensitive and painstaking work has recently yielded results, as contact has been established with some seafarers after two years. Member States, international and regional organizations and family members of the hostages expressed appreciation and commended the support and regular updates provided by the Programme.

IV. Efforts by Somalia

14. The Somali contact group on counter-piracy, also known as the Kampala process, has become a useful means of allowing the Federal Government of Somalia and authorities in Puntland, Galmudug and “Somaliland” to participate at a technical level to resolve maritime security and counter-piracy issues and address policy and strategy development. In June 2013, Somaliland authorities informed my Special Representative for Somalia that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) should not operate in Somaliland, on the grounds that, in their view, the territory is not part of the Federal Republic of Somalia and that UNSOM was mandated to work in Somalia only. Consequently, discussions are currently taking place to establish how the Kampala process can be further improved to assist Somali counter-piracy efforts.

15. Two meetings were held in the context of the Kampala process: the first was held in Addis Ababa in March 2013 and the second in Nairobi in June 2013. The meetings, which were facilitated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), IMO, UNODC and UNPOS, in cooperation with the European Union, resulted in a draft Somali maritime security and resource strategy that identified six functional areas and a legislative framework to support the strategy; the final version of the strategy was developed in September 2013. The functional areas are maritime governance, led by IMO; maritime law enforcement,led by UNODC; maritime security, led by UNSOM; maritime safety, led by IMO; maritime response and recovery, led by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and IMO; and maritime economy, led by FAO.

16. In a recorded video address to the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia at its 14th plenary meeting, held on 1 May 2013, the President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, urged the international naval forces conducting counterpiracy operations in the region to assist Somalia in patrolling its waters and reinforce Somali marine security units. The President noted that the implementation of the Somali Maritime Resource and Security Strategy would entail building capacity throughout the country to develop governance structures, ports, human resources and the maritime safety and security sector, and welcomed the support of the international community in this endeavour.

17. In a rescue operation conducted in December 2012, 22 hostages on board the MV Iceberg-1 were rescued by Puntland forces. On 11 March 2013, the Prime Minister of Somalia, Abdi Farah Shirdon, and the President of Puntland, Abdirahman Mohamed “Farole”, held a joint meeting in Garoowe between the Puntland cabinet and a delegation of the Federal Government of Somalia. The two sides agreed to work together to fight terrorism and piracy. On 21 March 2013, Puntland and Somaliland representatives met in Nairobi and agreed on joint security cooperation measures to share information and collaborate on fighting terrorism, piracy and other forms of organized crime.

18. On 30 July 2013, the Federal Government of Somalia signed an agreement with an international maritime security firm to establish a coast guard to combat piracy and patrol and secure Somali waters. Puntland and Somaliland criticized the agreement; Puntland authorities said the agreement undermined the efforts of Kampala process members to maintain Somali sovereignty and control over territorial waters.

19. In its report dated 12 July 2013 (S/2013/413), the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea took note of the intention of President Mohamud to offer amnesty to young pirates but not to pirate kingpins. The Group expressed the view that it was an oversimplification to reduce a complex transnational organized crime to a matter of kingpins and young boys and that the steps described by the President could lead to a general policy of amnesty for acts of Somali piracy. The Group also noted that to date neither the Government of Somalia nor the Puntland administration nor any other local authority had seriously investigated and
prosecuted any senior pirate leaders, financiers, negotiators or facilitators, and that
the leadership of the principal piracy networks and their associates continued to
enjoy impunity and had not been hindered in their ability to travel or transfer funds.

V. International cooperation

A. Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia

20. On 11 December 2012, the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia held its 13th plenary meeting in New York. At the meeting, which was chaired by India, participants emphasized the need for continued international coordination and cooperation owing to the persistent underlying causes of piracy and the fact that pirate action groups remained active. They stressed the need to free seafarers held hostage, expressed appreciation for the Hostage Support Programme, encouraged the Somali authorities to pass comprehensive counter-piracy legislation without delay and supported the continued implementation of the post-trial transfer system.

21. On 1 May 2013, at its 14th plenary meeting, which was chaired by the United States of America, the Contact Group agreed to better integrate its work with that of formal institutional actors in Somalia, including the Federal Government of Somalia. This would ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of the Contact Group, strengthen and focus law enforcement efforts to disrupt pirate networks ashore and proactively address the complex policy and legal issues associated with the use of armed security guards and weapons for self-defence on commercial ships.

In this regard, the Contact Group noted the need to respect applicable law and further coordinate ongoing efforts by relevant organizations engaged in these issues.The Chair instituted a quarterly newsletter to communicate more effectively to the global public the multifaceted work of the Contact Group. Highlighting the importance of regional cooperation and the need to address thematic and crosscutting issues in countering piracy, the Governments of Djibouti and the United States announced that they would co-host the first “counter-piracy week”, to be held in Djibouti in November 2013, which would culminate in the 15th plenary meeting of the Contact Group.

22. During the reporting period, Working Group 1, chaired by the United Kingdom and supported by IMO, facilitated the effective coordination of naval presences and international efforts to support the building of the judicial and maritime capacity of States in the region. The Working Group met in November 2012 in London, then held meetings in Addis Ababa in March 2013 and in Nairobi in June 2013 to foster greater regional engagement and participation. It worked to promote maximum transparency and awareness of capacity-building activities in order to minimize duplication and ensure the greatest possible positive impact in Somalia and the
region. In December 2012, the Contact Group endorsed the creation of a new capacity-building coordination group to facilitate the coordination of regionalcapacity development and the identification of future priorities for international action. The coordination group reports to and supports Working Group 1. The Working Group commended the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction mechanism for maximizing the impact of international naval operations at sea and supporting regional partners in building their own capabilities.

23. Under the chairmanship of Denmark and with the support of UNODC,Working Group 2 continued its efforts to provide legal guidance to States and organizations on all legal issues related to the fight against piracy, including the prosecution of individuals suspected of acts of piracy and the imprisonment of those convicted in accordance with international standards. The Working Group held detailed discussions of human rights issues and plans to share best practices in this field, including on how to handle juveniles suspected of piracy. The Working Group retained its focus on implementation of the post-trial transfer system, prosecution,including the international legal framework for prosecuting piracy organizers, and the use of privately contracted armed security personnel on board ships and vessel
protection detachments.

24. Working Group 3, which focuses on the efforts of States, the maritime industry and labour groups to protect vessels from piracy off the coast of Somalia, is chaired by the Republic of Korea. During the reporting period, it intensified efforts to develop guidance on the welfare of seafarers and families affected by Somali pirates. Working Group 3 also focused on the issue of the high-risk area and will hold an ad hoc meeting in late 2013 to review the threat assessment by naval forces, any changes in the position of stakeholders and the possibility of reducing the scope of the high-risk area.

25. Under the chairmanship of Egypt, Working Group 4 focused on public diplomacy aspects of combating piracy off the coast of Somalia. It raised awareness of the dangers of piracy and highlighted best practices to eradicate it. The Working Group developed guidelines on effective counter-piracy messaging to the international community and submitted them to the Contact Group for dissemination. Working Group members agreed to support the counter-piracy
messaging efforts of the Federal Government of Somalia and to align the Contact
Group’s messages where appropriate.

26. Working Group 5, chaired by Italy, continued its work to disrupt illicit financial flows linked to piracy by promoting international information-sharing, cooperation and coordination in order to disrupt pirate networks. The Working Group developed the Ten Key Principles in Information-sharing for Identifying and Prosecuting Pirates that was endorsed by the Contact Group at its 14th plenary meeting. It supported strategic collaboration between Governments and victims of piracy, including seafarers, shipowners, law firms, insurers and negotiators. On the basis of the recommendations of Working Group 5, the Contact Group urged States to designate national points of contact for policies and operations related to hostage negotiation and information-sharing and recognized the key role played by INTERPOL in collecting and analysing piracy-related data and sharing such information with appropriate authorities.

27. In March 2013, Working Group 1 and Working Group 4 held consecutive meetings in Addis Ababa, while in April 2013 Working Group 2 and Working Group 5 held consecutive meetings in Copenhagen. Also in April, the Chairs of Working Group 2 and Working Group 5 hosted, with INTERPOL, a special meeting of piracy prosecutors and investigators intended to facilitate information-sharing among law enforcement agencies to target key piracy organizers and financiers. At its 14th plenary meeting, the Contact Group welcomed these meetings as a good
practice that enabled participants from Working Groups to take better advantage of the co-location of relevant technical and policy experts to discuss cross-cutting issues.

B. Trust Fund to Support Initiatives of States Countering Piracy off the Coast of Somalia

28. The Trust Fund to Support Initiatives of States Countering Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, which is chaired by the Department of Political Affairs, continues to be an efficient mechanism for supporting the international community’s efforts to counter piracy off the coast of Somalia. The Trust Fund has financed the initiatives of five United Nations entities: FAO, IMO, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNODC and UNPOS. Collectively, the Trust Fund has supported a range of activities, including strengthening the regional capacity to prosecute persons suspected of acts of piracy and sanction those convicted, providing basic comfort and minimum treatment standards for prisoners, enhancing
the capacity of judiciaries and prosecutorial services, building up the police departments in Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles, Somalia and the United Republic of Tanzania and creating greater public awareness of the consequences of engaging in piracy.

29. During the reporting period, the Board of the Trust Fund met twice and approved 10 projects worth $4.9 million. In November 2012, the Board approved, on an exceptional basis, the Hostage Support Programme, to provide humanitarian assistance to hostages. On 10 December, at its 12th meeting, the Board approved four projects submitted by IMO, UNDP, UNPOS and UNODC worth $2.68 million and decided to replenish the Expedited Facility to meet short-term, unforeseen expenditures. On 30 April 2013, the Board held its 13th meeting, during which it approved five projects submitted by FAO and UNODC worth $2 million. New projects will target illicit financial flows derived from pirate activities, support Kenyan prisons in meeting the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, provide a biometrics-based fishermen database system in Puntland, equip detainees and at-risk youth in Somalia with livelihood skills and facilitate the repatriation of 40 Somali nationals suspected of piracy and apprehended by Maldives.

30. Since its inception in January 2010, the Trust Fund has received around $17.5 million in contributions from Member States and the maritime industry. It approved nearly $16.9 million in funding for 31 projects and $700,000 to meet short-term unforeseen expenditures. UNODC has received the largest share of the Trust Fund allocation, totalling $11.16 million. On 21 December 2012, the UNDP Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office took over as the new Trust Fund administrator. The Department of Political Affairs, as the Trust Fund secretariat, was assigned the responsibility of preparing annual consolidated narrative reports.

C. Regional cooperation

31. Implementation of the Djibouti Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, funded and administered through IMO, continues to deliver tangible results in the four thematic areas of information-sharing, training, national legislation and capacity-building. The Member States who signed the Code have committed to sharing relevant information on acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships, ensuring that persons suspected of piracy are apprehended and prosecuted and facilitating proper care, treatment and repatriation of seafarers, fishermen and other shipboard personnel who have faced acts of piracy. Three information-sharing
centres have been established in Sana’a, Mombasa (Kenya) and Dar es Salaam (United Republic of Tanzania) to manage a network of national focal points throughout the region, including in Puntland and Somaliland. The network provides information on piracy activity and dhow movements, which has assisted international naval forces to identify pirate mother vessels. IMO initiated the review and revision of counter-piracy provisions in the national legislations of the Comoros and Mozambique, as well as the identification of Somali legislation on piracy. IMO conducted 25 courses and workshops, training over 600 officials to address piracy through the regional training centre in Djibouti. Under the Code, a coastal maritime surveillance system was set up in the United Republic of Tanzania in partnership
with the United States.

32. At the second London Conference on Somalia, held on 7 May 2013, participants expressed support for the ongoing efforts of the Federal Government of Somalia to establish internationally recognized Somali waters, as well as partners' efforts to develop Somali maritime security capacities and to bring to justice those involved in piracy. The United Kingdom committed $2.3 million towards securing the coastline of Somalia.
33. At the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, held in June 2013, participants agreed that resolving cross-border issues such as piracy was essential to achieving a stable African continent. Japan announced that it would support the capacity-building of coastguards in countries neighbouring Somalia, including through the provision of patrol vessels.

34. Participants in a third high-level counter-piracy conference, on the theme “Countering maritime piracy: continued efforts for regional capacity-building”, held in Dubai on 11 and 12 September 2013, commended Somali-led efforts to agree on the Somali Maritime Resources and Security Strategy, and noted that the Strategy was a comprehensive and inclusive strategic framework that aimed to assist Somalia in developing a peaceful and productive maritime domain.

35. On 16 September 2013, the Federal Government of Somalia and the European Union co-hosted a conference entitled “A new deal for Somalia”, held in Brussels, at which the Somali Compact was endorsed. In the Compact, it was noted that the development of an effective maritime security strategy for Somalia within the framework of the Somali Maritime Resource and Security Strategy was a priority and that the Strategy provided the mechanism for the identification of specific needs in the areas of maritime law enforcement, maritime security, maritime safety and maritime response/recovery and linked maritime governance with the maritime economy.

36. At the ministerial meeting of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development partners forum, held on 26 September 2013 in New York, participants emphasized the regional dimension of the challenges to peace and stability in Somalia and noted that a more structured cooperation among countries in the Horn of Africa was key to tackling transborder issues such as terrorism, piracy and trafficking.

D. Naval activities off the coast of Somalia

37. The three counter-piracy maritime forces from the European Union, NATO and the Combined Maritime Forces, as well as naval counter-piracy missions from several Member States, including China, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan and the Russian Federation, have cooperated in the Gulf of Aden, resulting in as many as 20 warships from over a dozen nations conducting counter-piracy operations, as authorized by the Security Council in its resolution 2077 (2012).

38. The first European Union Naval Force operation, Atalanta, which comprises up to five vessels and four aircraft and more than 900 personnel, has disrupted several pirate attacks and transferred 21 suspected pirates for prosecution in Seychelles and Mauritius. It also supports States in the region in developing their counter-piracy capacity. Since 2007, 171 vessels carrying over 1,729,180 tons of World Food Programme (WFP) food and humanitarian aid to Somalia and the broader region have been escorted by Member States and regional groupings,
including through the Atalanta operation. During the past 12 months, 23 WFP chartered vessels carrying over 353,657 tons of humanitarian aid sailed under Atalanta protection without incident. No ship carrying WFP food supplies has been attacked by pirates since the deployment of Atalanta.

39. The NATO operation Ocean Shield comprises up to five vessels that patrol the waters off the coast of the Horn of Africa and along the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor in