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									                                                                                      (As delivered)

                        Athena 09 Crisis Management International Conference
                            Athens, Greece, 30 September - 3 October 2009
                                        Presentation on Piracy
                                     by Efthimios E. Mitropoulos
                        Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished participants, Media representatives, Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be with you today and I should start by congratulating the organizers of this
Conference for their initiative to convene it on a subject, which, although timely and appropriate
at any given time, has become extremely significant in our days – so turbulent and full of

They, the organizers, deserve a particular tribute for including, in the Conference programme, the
issue of piracy, the threat of which has been plaguing innocent seafarers for far too long.
Notwithstanding the fact that the scourge of modern day piracy has, for the wider public, become
the stigma of the 21st century, for us in the maritime community it has become acutely

In the late 1990s, the global piracy hotspots were the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, the South
China Sea and parts of the South Atlantic. But so successful were the national, regional and
international measures designed and taken to address the problem that, today, incidents there
occur only rarely.

It was, therefore, most unfortunate and regrettable to see, in the early years of the current century,
pirates increasingly operating off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, and now beyond
the Horn of Africa and in the wider expanses of the western Indian Ocean. As they became
bolder, better trained and armed and sophisticatedly equipped, attacks grew dramatically in
number and ferocity, culminating in the terrifying tactic of hijacking ships and holding their
crews hostage against huge ransom demands – against the previously established practice of their
boarding ships to steal cash and valuables.

IMO has been addressing piracy since the 1980s and has, more recently, worked with the United
Nations to coordinate appropriate action among interested parties, including Governments and
intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations (both global and regional), as well as
political and defence alliances, such as the European Union, NATO and the Combined Maritime

The response has been one of the great examples of international co-operation in the modern era.
The fact that navies from countries as far apart as China, Japan and the Republic of Korea in the
east; Canada and the United States in the west; Norway, the Russian Federation and Sweden in
the north; Australia, India and the Islamic Republic of Iran in the south (to mention but a few)
have – probably for the first time in history, given their countries’ background – converged in the
Gulf of Aden and in the western Indian Ocean area, joining forces in an unparalleled
demonstration of solidarity speaks volumes about how strongly the international community feels
about this scourge, and of its determination to eradicate it, once and for all.

It is not, however, a problem to which a single approach will bring a solution. For example,
while there can be no doubting the value of the various military operations undertaken to protect
shipping, it is also imperative that the shipping industry itself acts as appropriately and

necessarily as possible to improve its own resilience, by ensuring that ships take all the
recommended preventive, evasive and defensive measures – excluding the carriage of firearms.

Revised guidance on combating piracy and armed robbery against ships was agreed by IMO in
June and has been promulgated widely. Specific guidance relating to attacks in waters off the
coast of Somalia was also agreed, which includes Best Management Practices and practical
advice on navigation.

In order to maximize the benefits of the military protection scheme in place, it is essential that
ships sailing through the Gulf of Aden contact, in good time, the designated focal points for
coordination of their passage, making use of the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor,
and conducting their passage through the Corridor in groups, based on planned transit speeds.

In further efforts to tackle piracy from all possible angles, in January this year IMO held, in
Djibouti, a regional meeting on maritime security, piracy and armed robbery against ships for
Western Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and Red Sea States, which adopted the Djibouti Code of
Conduct, which took immediate effect. The Code aims at ensuring co-operation among its
signatories for the investigation, arrest and prosecution of pirates; the interdiction and seizure of
suspect ships and property on board such ships; the rescue of ships, persons and property subject
to piracy and armed robbery; and the conduct of shared operations – both between signatory
States and also with navies from outside the region. Signatories to the Code have undertaken to
review their national legislation to ensure they have laws in place to criminalize piracy and
armed robbery against ships and adequate provisions for the exercise of jurisdiction, conduct of
investigations and prosecution of alleged offenders. The Code also provides for the sharing of
piracy information, through information-sharing centres to be established in Sana’a in Yemen,
Mombasa in Kenya and Dar es Salaam in the United Republic of Tanzania. A training centre is
also envisaged to be established in Djibouti.

To follow-up the Djibouti Meeting, a programme of activities to promote the speedy and
effective implementation of the Code of Conduct there adopted has been developed within IMO.
This is being fine-tuned, making use of generous and much appreciated financial support
provided by the Governments of Japan, the Netherlands and Norway.

In a related development, a High-Level Meeting on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia was held in
Seoul in June of this year, to mainly discuss such issues as capacity building, implementation of
the Djibouti Code of Conduct and the need for increased coordination in the military operations.

IMO continues to work actively to ensure the implementation of the Djibouti Code of Conduct,
in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Interpol, the Singapore-based
Information Sharing Centre of ReCAAP and other interested parties. To this same end, IMO is
convening a meeting in the Seychelles next month to assist States in the region to develop action
plans and implement the Djibouti Code.

To complement these activities, a United Nations Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of
Somalia was established in January within the context of a Security Council resolution adopted
last December. IMO is actively involved in this initiative, providing host facilities for meetings
of the working groups established. Working Group 1 focuses on areas of coordination; Working
Group 2 examines how to ensure the necessary criminalization of piracy (and related preparatory
acts) under national law and the necessary jurisdiction, including international jurisdiction;
Working Group 3 assists in the development of guidance to seafarers; and Working Group 4
addresses improving diplomatic and public information efforts on all aspects of piracy. Under
the auspices of Working Group 2, the Contact group has established a trust fund to help defray
the expenses associated with prosecution of suspected pirates.

The Contact Group has become the focus for much of the international effort to address the
piracy issue and there are already signs that tangible progress has been made since its
establishment. At its most recent meeting, earlier this month, it noted a significant reduction in
the rate of successful attacks off the coast of Somalia, especially among shipping following the
Best Management Practices I mentioned before, despite the worrying rise in the number of
overall attacks. At present, 4 ships, totalling 86 seafarers, are held for ransom at various points
along the coast of Somalia, against a total of 33 ships hijacked since the beginning of the year.

But the fight against piracy cannot be fought entirely at sea. Creating an effective legal
framework to deal with pirates is, for example, another front on which the battle is being waged
and in which IMO is heavily involved. To this end, we have requested our Members to provide
copies of their national legislation and other relevant information about their domestic laws with
regard to the capture, arrest, prosecution and extradition of pirates, with the aim of reviewing the
legislation and arriving at pertinent conclusions and recommendations.

From the responses received so far, it has emerged that relatively few national legislations exist
fully incorporating the definition of piracy as contained in article 101 of the United Nations
Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), as well as a jurisdictional framework based upon
the concept of universal jurisdiction regulated by UNCLOS; and that, in most cases, piracy is not
addressed as an independent, separate offence with its own jurisdictional framework but is
subsumed within more general categories of crimes, such as robbery, kidnapping, abduction,
violence against persons, etc. In such cases, prosecution and punishment can only take place in
accordance with a jurisdictional scope that is inevitably more restricted than the scope of
universal jurisdiction regulated in UNCLOS.

These, and other relevant findings, will be referred to the IMO Legal Committee for further

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let no-one forget that piracy does not just affect innocent seafarers and shipping companies that
become directly embroiled in it – although the safety of seafarers, fishermen and passengers on
board ships sailing off the coast of Somalia is IMO’s paramount concern, as I emphasized in my
presentation to the UN Security Council last November. Piracy has an impact on trade and it
raises the spectre of an environmental catastrophe. We should all be thankful for the efforts being
made to eradicate it. And, since all countries bear, one way or another, some less than others, the
burden of piracy, as many as possible should be encouraged to participate in the joint
international effort through material contributions of any relevant sort.

Of course, it is not at sea that the ultimate solution to the problem is to be found, but on shore. Its
root cause is centred on the political instability that has torn Somalia apart since 1991, eventually
making it a failed, lawless State. There is, currently, hope that this situation may change. There
is a political process under way and Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government has held since it
was set up at the beginning of the year. The opportunity is there for the Somalis to put aside their
differences for the good of their country; and for the international community, led by the United
Nations, to tackle this complex issue at the political level, engaging all entities concerned
(including the African Union and the League of Arab States). But, in the meantime, we must
continue to do all we can to combat piracy, not forgetting that it is not a cause, but a symptom.

1735 words
14.22 minutes
1 October 2009


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