Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 18:07 pm (KSA) 15:07 pm (GMT)

Nine countries sign deal to fight Somali piracy

The code of conduct was signed by eight coastal nations as well as Ethiopia (File)
The code of conduct was signed by eight coastal nations as well as Ethiopia (File)

Nine countries from the region most affected by Somali piracy on Thursday signed a deal enhancing cooperation in the fight against piracy in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden, as pirates hijacked a German-owned tanker carrying liquefied petroleum gas despite being under navy escort.

A code of conduct was signed by eight coastal nations as well as Ethiopia during a special meeting convened in Djibouti under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

"This Djibouti code of conduct is the first regional agreement between Arab and African countries against acts of piracy against ships in the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and the western Indian Ocean," Koji Sekimizu, head of the IMO's maritime safety division, told an AFP reporter at the meeting.

 We now have an efficient mechanism to fight against piracy. The text of the code has been accepted by consensus. The IMO is ready to help the member states to implement this agreement 
Koji Sekimizu

The nine signatories are Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, the Maldives, the Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania and Yemen.

The document provides for the creation of three information centers in Mombasa, Dar es Salaam and Sana’a and a training centre for anti-piracy units in Djibouti.

"We now have an efficient mechanism to fight against piracy. The text of the code has been accepted by consensus. The IMO is ready to help the member states to implement this agreement," Sekimizu added.

The code of conduct says coastal states should make the necessary changes in their legislations to facilitate the arrest and prosecution of piracy suspects.

A sensitive issue

 It is a very serious issue under international law and sovereignty. There is a principle that each ship pursuing a pirate has to ask for the permission of the concerned state to enter its waters. We have decided to stay on this principle 
Koji Sekimizu

The fate of Somali pirates arrested by warships patrolling the area -- most of which were dispatched by Western navies -- has been a sensitive issue.

Some observers describe the drive by the United Nations and other key players to legalize the transfer of Somali pirates by foreign navies to a court in a coastal country as a "rendition program with a U.N. stamp."

The meeting however failed to reach an agreement on allowing foreign navies to engage in hot pursuit in Somali territorial waters.

"It is a very serious issue under international law and sovereignty. There is a principle that each ship pursuing a pirate has to ask for the permission of the concerned state to enter its waters. We have decided to stay on this principle," Sekimizu explained.

Chantal Poirier, France's special ambassador on anti-piracy issues, said during the meeting's closing session she had hoped "for a more binding agreement".

Around 140 foreign vessels were attacked by Somali pirates in 2008, threatening to disrupt world trade and making Somalia's waters the world's most dangerous.

The growing scourge spurred Western powers into dispatching several warships to the region but pirates have proved to be undeterred and continued their attacks.

Tanker hijacked

Somali pirates hijacked a German-owned tanker carrying liquefied petroleum gas on Thursday, the first ship seized in the Gulf of Aden in nearly four weeks.

A decline in the rate of successful attacks since foreign navies rushed to the busy sea lane has raised optimism among shippers that the menace was being curbed, but pirates have been seeking ways to evade the warships.

Shipping information service Lloyd's List put the Longchamp's size at 4,316 deadweight tons -- over 70 times smaller than the Saudi supertanker held in November and released on Jan. 9 after the world's biggest ship hijacking.

Liquefied petroleum gas, a fuel, is highly flammable.

Somali gunmen have been causing havoc in one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, hijacking dozens of ships last year.

The attacks have raised insurance costs, prompted some owners to go round South Africa instead of via the Suez Canal and triggered an unprecedented deployment by international naval forces.

Shippers say that has decreased the frequency of successful hijackings -- the previous one was on Jan. 3 -- but a senior officer with the U.S. military command for Africa told Reuters this week the decline could have been due to the weather.

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