Last Updated: Fri Apr 22, 2011 11:49 am (KSA) 08:49 am (GMT)

Tackling maritime piracy threat

Pirates working from ports in Somalia have received an estimated $85 million in ransoms since January 2010.(File Photo)
Pirates working from ports in Somalia have received an estimated $85 million in ransoms since January 2010.(File Photo)

Maritime piracy attacks have hit record highs, with Somali pirates reaping an estimated $85 million from ransom payments in 2010, despite international naval efforts to curb attacks.

The escalation of piracy attacks in 2011 hurt global trade and commerce and had a damaging impact on international security and stability, according to participants at an anti-piracy summit in Dubai this week.

The mounting concerns brought together government and shipping industry professionals from more than 50 countries at the high-profile summit titled, “Global Challenge, Regional Responses: Forging A Common Approach to Maritime Piracy.”

The summit tackled both public and private initiatives to counter the effects of piracy on captives, their families and communities as well as the threat it poses to international peace and security.

United States government figures estimate that since January 2010, pirates working from ports in Somalia have received approximately between $75 million to $85 million in ransom payments.

Meanwhile, maritime piracy costs the global economy between $7 billion and $12 billion annually, a December 2010 report from the US-based One Earth Future Foundation estimated.

A final statement issued at the end of the two-day anti-piracy summit urged states to consider the prosecution of suspected pirates and strict punishments on the convicted. This would be in accordance with international human rights law and United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Participants called for illicit financial flows that finance piracy to be effectively tracked and thwarted, while calls for funding counter-piracy initiatives were also made.

More than $5 million was pledged to a United Nations trust fund aimed at fighting piracy and other development projects in Africa.
Included in the total, was $1 million from the host nation, the United Arab Emirates, along with separate donations from UAE-based seaport companies.

The summit also focused on root causes of piracy in Somalia and discussed underlying reasons behind the increase in piracy in the country, such as state failures and social instability.

Somalia, with an estimated population of 10 million, has an annual GDP of $5.8 billion and a GDP per capita of $600.

According to a UN report released in January 2011, Somalia’s “piracy-driven economy is gradually overtaking the traditional economy.” The report cited the development of activities on land in support of the pirates and the destructive effect of piracy on Somali society as reasons behind this.

Participants at the Dubai summit pinpointed the regional authorities of Galmudug, Puntland, and Somaliland as regions that counter-piracy efforts should be directed towards.

Improving security conditions with trained and equipped maritime law enforcement, was also a part of the strategy outlined to support Somalia and combat piracy.

(Eman El Shenawi of Al Arabiya can be reached at: eman.elshenawi@mbc.net)

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