A regional maritime organisation wants a European Union military ships operating in the Horn of Africa to extend its mandate to cover all maritime crimes in the Indian Ocean.
The Inter-Governmental Standing Committee on Shipping (ISCOS), says the EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation ATALANTA— which mainly focuses on anti-piracy activities — should extend its mandate to deal with all the maritime crimes including terrorism, charcoal smuggling as well as drug and human trafficking.
ISCOS made the request to the EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation ATALANTA, Force Commander, Rear Admiral Armando Paolo Simi.
“Maritime security is our concern. It (ocean) serves international trade, aiding tourism and transportation. We have been partnering with EU on educating the masses on maritime activities,” said acting ISCOS secretary general Kassim Mpaata when he led a delegation that visited the military ship that docked at the Port of Mombasa on Saturday.
“EU has done a good job, and collaboration between the regions will spur international trade. But the mandate should be expanded to cover all areas of maritime crime and not only piracy.”
Admiral Simi said although their work is mainly anti-piracy, they are also playing a role in curbing other maritime crimes through monitoring and sharing of crucial information.
The EU military ship’s main work in the Indian Ocean, East part of Somalia and the Gulf of Eden is protecting vessels of the World Food Programme (WFP) delivering aid to displaced persons in Somalia.
“The main mandate or mission is anti-piracy. We protect vulnerable ships from piracy activities. We protect the WFP vessels that are very important for Somalia because they carry food and goods to the country and they are vulnerable while transiting the East Coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Eden,” said Admiral Simi, adding that they also share a lot of information on other maritime crimes.
He said Somali residents have been “urging us to intervene in case of terrorism, smuggling of human beings, drugs or other maritime crimes. We share a lot of information with different taskforces that have mandate to intervene on different aspects such as terrorism.”
He added: “We report the fishing activities to the European Council, the information is later dispatched to another council such as the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission from where Somalia can get any fishing activities and information we discover at the sea. We don’t have any mandate to intervene.”
Maritime security, he noted will continue to be enhanced through partnerships.
“We monitor and report all the activities that we observe at the sea including human trafficking, smuggling of charcoal, drugs and weapons. When you are at the sea you see a lot of things but you can only intervene if you have the mandate,” he noted.
Admiral Simi further said the key to security in the Indian Ocean is sharing information among players.
“It is important to share information not only among the military stakeholders but with the civilians and those operating in the area because we have the same goal to increase maritime security of the area,” added Commander Simi.
“We also do surveillance in the area using our maritime patrol aircraft which gives us pictures to make us understand what goes on in the land.”
Sometimes, he revealed, they conduct friendly approaches with other ships by asking permission from the vessel masters to go on board and probe whether they have seen any suspicious or illegal activities.
Aside from the anti-piracy roles, the EU vessels conduct capacity building with Somalia’s maritime forces and fosters intra-operability with neighbouring routes. The EU NAVFOR warships also conduct patrols in the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
The EU military mission is in Kenya seeking to explore areas of cooperation with the local naval force.
“We are planning to do sea activities with the Kenyan Navy,” Admiral Simi said.
ATALANTA is in Mombasa from Djibouti transiting along the Coast of Somalia.
ISCOS is a regional Organisation formed in 1967 by the Member States of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia to take care of their common Shipping, Maritime and Logistics Interests.