More than 200 participants including representatives from African nations, the shipping industry, legal experts and NATO discussed the continuing threat of piracy off the eastern African coast at an international conference held in Djibouti this week.
The meeting was the 15th Plenary of the Contact Group on Piracy off the coast of Somalia. It was the first time the Contact Group met in Djibouti, signaling an enhanced leadership role for the eastern African nation in the fight against piracy in the region.
“Djibouti understands the important role they play in the fight against piracy. They, like their neighbours in the region, are still adversely affected by piracy and while attacks are down, the threat remains,” said the Chair of the Contact Group, Donna Hopkins of the U.S. State Department. “It will become increasingly important for all the regional countries, including Somalia, to take a leadership role in countering piracy, which the international community has worked so hard to address over the past five years.”
Delegates discussed the continued threat of piracy off the coast of Somalia and how regional nations can contribute to the international counter-piracy effort.
“There is still a threat to shipping in the area, as we have seen over the weekend when a NATO ship was able to apprehend the suspected pirates, who it appears attacked a commercial vessel,” said NATO’s Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Operations, Rick Froh, who led the NATO delegation.
“NATO is committed to this fight and with the help of the regional countries we can continue to reduce the threat of piracy that has had such a negative impact on regional security and on our economies. This is an important conference, the first held in an African nation, Djibouti. At the Group’s meetings, we are discussing one of our top priorities, including regional capacity building to fight piracy.”
The number of pirate attacks at sea off the coast of Somalia has dropped significantly over the last year. The presence of international warships, including those from NATO, as well as the security measures adopted by commercial shipping companies, have all helped to reduce the threat. There has not been a successful hijacking of a commercial vessel off the coast of Somalia for more than a year.
The four-day Counter Piracy Week in Djibouti ends on Thursday 14 November but the five working groups, which report to the Contact Group, meet regularly to address issues affected by piracy, such as maritime shipping and the welfare of seafarers.
Press Release, November 14, 2013; Image: NATO