Departure of EU naval force risky for coast, report warns

Panama Bulk Carrier MV Heilan Journey arrives at the Port of Mombasa from Kaohsiung Port in Taiwan on July 2, 2019. FILE PHOTO | NMG

What you need to know:

  • The departure has raised the need for other plans to ensure piracy does not rise again in the region.
  • The EU Naval forces have been along the Indian Ocean for the last 10 years following the attacks and hijacks of ships by the pirates.
  • Piracy has traditional been affecting the maritime business and has been one of the most troubling issues in the maritime sector.

The possible withdrawal of the European Union Naval Force from the Indian Ocean waters has raised the need for other plans to ensure piracy does not rise again in the region, a new maritime report says.

A report by the Intergovernmental Standing Committee on Shipping (ISCOS) says that though piracy has been on the decline, the possibility of a withdrawal of the EU naval force that has been stationed in the Indian Ocean waters for years heralds uncertainty.

“The regional governments should be made aware of the possible withdrawal of the EU Naval force and therefore the need for contingency plans to ensure security of the maritime activity in the region,” said the report.

Kenya Ships Agents Association says that the EU Naval forces have been along the Indian Ocean for the last 10 years following the attacks and hijacks of ships by the pirates.

Available data show that piracy has decreased since Kenya went to Somalia in 2011 and an EU naval force was put in place in the region. The economic cost of piracy came down to Sh140 billion ($1.4 billion) in 2017 from Sh170 billion ($1.7 billion) in the previous year. In 2010, the piracy costs stood at a high of Sh700 billion ($7 billion).

In terms of piracy surcharges on ships, the Kenya Shippers Council chief executive Juma Tellah says that shippers have been paying $25 per twenty foot equivalent unit (teus) and $50 for the 40-foot container to offset the increased cost.

In 2012, Mediterranean Shipping Company announced a new piracy surcharge on containers it transports between ports in South Africa and East Africa because “piracy activities were becoming more and more aggressive, consequently the insurance costs on the vessels to the region have become prohibitive.”

It increased its piracy risk surcharge by $100 per 20-foot equivalent unit to $230 per TEU on cargo carried from and to South Africa to and from East Africa, including the ports of Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Zanzibar, Mombasa and Nacada.

Despite the decline in piracy, industry watchers say the vice has not been eliminated and that shippers should continue to be on the lookout.

The report called for continued surveillance of the regional waters aimed at curbing other maritime menace such as drug and human trafficking.

“ISCOS should follow up with the EU Naval force on the classification of risk Zones in the Indian ocean, since this classification carries cost implications to the region. Countries in the region should continue collaborating and engaging each other to share intelligence information to fight piracy and other marine crimes,” said the report.

However, a shipping consult Andrew Mwangura said the issue of piracy along the ocean needs a lot of commitment from players in the sector around the world.

“Piracy is still menace and it should be addressed accordingly. Great measures must be put up by World countries to have it addressed once for all,” he said.

With piracy and maritime insecurity still a big factor in the growth of maritime business, the Kenyan government has affirmed its commitment towards enhancing maritime security along the Indian Ocean.

Shipping and Maritime Affairs Principal Secretary Kenya Nancy Karigithu said in a statement that Kenya was ready to use the opportunity to make its contribution.

Kenya has only this year bagged the chairmanship for the Contact Group on Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia (CGCPS).

“We affirm our commitment on matters of maritime security, and in this regard we have now an opportunity to make our contribution to the advancement of the mandate and ideals of the CGPCS,” she said.

Dr Karigithu said Kenya is much well aware of the effects of trade by maritime insecurity and vowed to make the country safer for the maritime trade to grow and thrive.

“Most importantly, Kenya has adopted the blue economy as one of the pillars of economic growth and therefore maritime security as a pillar of blue growth is of utmost importance to us,” she said in the statement.

On June 20, during its 22nd plenary session, the Contact Group on Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia (CGCPS) announced that Kenya will chair the platform from January 2020 for a period of two years.

“Kenya, actively involved in the maritime domain in the Western Indian Ocean, will be the third country in the region to chair this International platform as from January 2020 for a two-year mandate after Mauritius (through IOC) and Seychelles,” said part of the statement.

In the plenary session in Mauritius, Defence Cabinet Secretary (CS) Raychelle Omamo, said while there is a clear indication of the appropriation of maritime issues by riparian countries in the region, Kenya through its accession to the CGPCS chairmanship is ensuring its long-lasting legacy.

“We shall be engaged to build on this solid foundation so as to take the group to even greater heights and cement its legacy as an effective mechanism in fighting piracy,” she said.

The session which was organised by the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) together with the Republic of Mauritius (current Chair of the Contact Group in the name of the IOC), brought together more than 200 participants from over 30 States and regional and international organisations to discuss on way forward of this platform focused on piracy created following a UN Resolution in December 2008.

During the session, members vowed to continue engage efforts to combat piracy even though the session was in agreement that piracy has been contained.

“While all the CGPCS members agreed on the fact that piracy has been contained but not eradicated and that they will continue to engage efforts to combat piracy and its root causes,” said the statement.

Piracy has traditional been affecting the maritime business and has been one of the most troubling issues in the maritime sector.

Maritime piracy

In May this year during a three-day meeting organised by the ISCOS in Mombasa, the issue on global fight against maritime piracy was among the many contributions that were presented with the delegates hoping that it will finally be addressed.

A report adopted by the member states during the meeting noted that the menace of maritime piracy has greatly affected the region, introducing new dimensions in maritime transport and coming with heavy costs.

“The fight against piracy including deterring measures have also brought about new ship operating costs which are ultimately passed to shippers, making imports costly and exports less competitive in international markets. This is the piracy surcharge. Although incidences of piracy had greatly declined, there was continuous need for the region to remain vigilant,” said part of the report.

The report further credits The EU Navel force which it said has been instrumental in curbing cases of maritime piracy in the region.

“The EU Naval Force has worked closely with the international shipping industry in order to combat the vice of piracy. The continuity of the EU Naval Force operations is not guaranteed as there have been indications of its intended withdrew before. The region on its own does not seem to have contingency plans to secure its maritime waters,” said the report.

The report further recommended that ISCOS should continue collaborating with EU Naval Force in monitoring the trends of piracy and other Maritime Crimes in the region.

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