UNOSAT Global Report on Maritime Piracy – a Geospatial Analysis

As part of its UNOSAT programme, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research recently launched a global report on the geospatial analysis of piracy activities. UNOSAT uses satellite derived geoinformation in critical areas such as humanitarian relief, human security, strategic territorial and development planning.

The global report, building primarily on data maintained by the International Maritime Organization, explores how trends in geospatial patterns and severity of reported piracy incidents are developing from 1995 to 2013.

Maritime Circulation and Piracy 2006-2013

Courtesy UNOSAT Global Report on Maritime Piracy

Not surprisingly, two areas were observed because of the significant trends in piracy activities: the Western Indian Ocean, including the Gulf of Aden, and the Gulf of Guinea. In the Indian Ocean, including the Malacca Strait, and in South America, no major trends were observed. Piracy in the Malacca Strait, however, continues to be a major disruptor for safe routes in the eastern Indian Ocean.

As for the Western Indian Ocean, the following observations are made:

  • There has been a significant reduction in the number of pirate attacks during 2013 – to the extent one can claim they have almost stopped (28 incidents in 2013, of which only 8 since 15th August). Not a single vessel was hijacked;

  • The median distance from where an attack is reported to the nearest coast has dropped from close to 400 km in 2010 to under 50 km in 2013, thus indicating a considerable reduction in the radius of successful pirate activities;

  • Incidents involving the use of rocket propelled grenades, relatively heavy armour for pirates, has decreased from 43 in 2011 to 3 in 2013;

  • Ransom amounts paid to pirates have decreased from US$150M in 2011 to about US$60M in 2012;

  • In addition to the well-known feature of piracy “mother ships” from which fast-going skiffs can radiate, a new trend of floating armoury vessels supplying anti-piracy entities with weapons out in international waters is observed.

The Gulf of Guinea differs from the western Indian Ocean, although the overall number of attacks carried out is of a smaller scale:

  • The number of attacks show no sign of decreasing;

  • Attacks in the high seas have increased, while attacks in ports are on the decrease;

  • The types of attacks have gone from low-intensity towards more violent acts;

  • The Financial losses to the national economies for countries with ports in the Gulf of Guinea are considerable. This has forced certain countries to take military action that has proven successful.

The findings confirm the already well-known trends in modern day piracy in these areas.

Several organisations collect and analyse data relevant to piracy. While there have been major improvements in information-sharing, this is yet another area in the fight against piracy which suffered from fragmentation of approaches and consequently from dispersion of resources. The report thus provide for a number of recommendations for standardisation and possible better coordination.

Notably, the report advocates for the creation of a “severity index” to better differentiate the gravity in the use of violence during reported incidents in future data collection and analysis. The report indeed remarks how for close to half of reported piracy incidents no threat of violence has been reported. A similar index is used by the ReCAAP in monitoring piracy incidents in South East Asia.

The report also highlights how the distance from the coasts from which the pirate carry out their attacks is correlated to the pirates’ technical and operational capabilities and could thus function as an early predictor of an escalation in the attacks.

Follow the Khat: Tracking Piracy’s Financial Flows

It is high season for reports and studies relating to piracy. The latest World Bank report, Pirate Trails, which follows the recent IMB annual report on the number of piracy incidents as well as the UNSG situation report on piracy in Somalia, is dedicated to the largely unchartered topic of the illicit financial flows of Somali piracy. So far, apart for the disappointing report of the UK sponsored International Piracy Ransom Task Force, little public attention has been paid to tracking and disrupting the financial flows generated by piracy through the payment of ransoms for ships, crew and their cargos. Pirates, defined in the report as hostis humani generi (but wrongly attributing this definition to Cicero) have been capable of modernizing their actives and developing specific business models that adapt to the situation in which they operate. In Somalia, alongside pirates who attack and board ships crossing the Gulf of Aden, a sophisticated network of investors, local and foreign financiers and shareholders, but also negotiators, interpreters, guards, cooks and drivers, flourished and profited from piracy.

The report estimates that US$339 million to US$413 million was claimed in ransoms between April 2005 and December 2012 for pirate acts off the Horn of Africa. With low level pirates typically netting a pre-agreed fee between US$30,000 and US$75,000 (about 0.01–0.025 percent of an average ransom payment), the pirate financiers who invested in the piracy operations receive the bulk of the ransom, estimated at 30–75 percent of the total ransom.

Ransom payments can be invested locally, generally by low level pirates but increasingly also by financers, or moved by financial transfer, particularly to Djibouti, Kenya, and the United Arab Emirates. Most of the money is moved by cross-border cash smuggling, made easy by the porosity of the borders in the region and trade-based money laundering. Money transfer services are also exploited to move money outside Somalia.

Depending on the profit made, ransom money may be used to fuel other illicit activities in the region. Some pirate financiers are engaging in human trafficking, including migrant smuggling, and investing in militias and military capacities in Somalia. To launder their proceeds, pirate financiers can also buy into legitimate business interests, particularly the real estate market. Allegations that ransoms payments fueled the real estate prices in the region are not new, although any definitive evidence has yet to be shown. Other legitimate businesses in trade (for example, trade in petroleum), transportation, and the services industry (for example, restaurants, hotels, shops), also offer viable opportunities for the pirates to invest the proceeds from piracy, depending on the profit originally made.

Khat (also commonly referenced to as qat, qaad, gat, jaad, tchat, and miraa) is a small leafy plant. Among communities in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, the chewing of khat is a social custom dating back many thousands of years.

Khat (also commonly referenced to as qat, qaad, gat, jaad, tchat, and miraa) is a small leafy plant. Among communities in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, the chewing of khat is a social custom dating back many thousands of years.

Interestingly, the report sheds light of the role played by the trade of Khat, a mild stimulant popular in Somalia and very popular among pirates, in the financial flows generated by piracy. Khat is provided on credit to low level pirates throughout highjack operations. Its use is recorded. When ransoms are finally paid, the debt accumulated by the pirates during the captivity period is paid back by subtracting it from their share of the profit. In light of the potential profit to be generated, pirates are ready to pay their khat’s provisions at a price well above the market price. There is more. Given the lucrative nature of the trade, which predominantly cash-based, the traditional culture of khat chewing in Somalia, and Somalis’ control over the distribution network, pirates are also investing their profit and increasingly buying into this multi-million dollar business. Khat trade with northern Kenya, in particular, is largely unregulated and is becoming fertile ground for the pirates’ business interests in this sector. An estimate of nine tons of khat is flown daily from Kenya to Mogadishu. The report recommends the regulation of the khat trade as one of the means to disrupt piracy financial flows in the region. Considering the pirates involvement in the  growth, distribution and consumption of khat, however, the khat trade may already be an effective indicator of the pirates financial and laundering activities. Monitoring this business can therefore add to the efforts to track the pirates network upwards to their financiers within and outside Somalia.

International Anti-Piracy Efforts in Somalia Must Continue: UNSG

The latest UN Secretary General situation report on piracy in Somalia is now before the UN Security Council. The report provides an overview and an update on the most relevant anti-piracy initiatives in Somalia and the Gulf of Aden.

During 2013, piracy has continued to be a major issue on the agenda of the UN and EU, NATO, several regional and other interested states as well as a number of specialized agencies, such as the UNODC, DPA, IMO, INTERPOL and FAO among others. Specific and ad hoc mechanisms and organizations, such as the Kampala Process, the Contact Group, the Djibouti Code of Conduct, the Trust Fund, the Hostage Support Program and a number of international conferences have proven instrumental in the fight against piracy.

It has been widely reported how incidents of piracy in the region are now at a seven years low. It is also no mystery how these positive developments are due to a multitude of factors, including the effectiveness of the international maritime patrol missions, the best management practices and the use of private armed guards in deterring piracy attacks, as well as the implementation of the “prosecution chain”, by which suspected pirates are apprehended, tried in courts of regional states and eventually transferred in Somaliland and Puntland to serve any imposed sentence.

“A number of measures have led to a decline in attacks: improved international and regional cooperation on counter-piracy efforts, including better intelligence- and information-sharing; targeted actions by the international naval presence to discourage and disrupt Somali pirates; increased application of IMO guidance and of the Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia-based Piracy, developed by the shipping industry; and prosecution of suspected pirates and imprisonment of those convicted. The adoption of self-protection and situational awareness measures by commercial ships, including the deployment of privately contracted armed security personnel on board vessels and vessel protection detachments, are also believed to have contributed to the decrease in piracy attacks.”

The Security Council is expected to agree with the Secretary General’s recommendation that the international anti-piracy efforts underway in Somalia continue for at least another year. The obvious question is how long the international community will be willing and capable to continue financing its costly patrol missions, particularly given the waning threat (or risk of attacks). The question also arises on the cost-efficiency of private armed guards on board ships travelling in the region. The repression of piracy in the Gulf of Aden does not, however, solely depend upon these initiatives. The fight against piracy which started as an armed response, has progressively expanded into an integrated system that encompasses respect and promotion of human rights and the rule of law, governance, economic development, capacity building, treatment of juvenile pirates, alternative employment opportunities and legislative reform. In addition, environmental protection and exploitation of natural resources in the region are also being monitored. Even if the piracy drought continued in 2014, these initiatives are likely to be further stepped up and take center stage towards long-term solutions for Somalia’s future. Although we have been careful not to conflate terrorism with piracy, the impetus to continue these programmes also arises from the continued threat of terrorism originating in and/or targeting Somalia.

Piracy Best Practices Adapt to West Africa’s Setting

The surge of piracy in West Africa prompted some of the main stakeholders in the maritime industry to develop interim guidelines for the protection against piracy in the region. The guidelines, endorsed by the IMO, aim to bridge the gap between the prevailing situation in West Africa and the advice currently available in the fight against piracy. They complement one another and are to be read in conjunction with the Best Management Practices (BMP4) originally adopted to address piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

Worthy of note is that the Guidelines identify the area off the coast of Nigeria, Togo and Benin as at major risk, although pirates are rather flexible in their operation and attacks have also occurred elsewhere. Significant is the absence in the region of regular patrolling missions by international navies, a designated group transit area or a specific information and coordination centre akin to the UKMTO or MSCHOA in the Gulf of Aden. In the event of a pirate attack, the main point of reference is currently the Regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, run by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency in Lagos.

With regards to the pirates’ modus operandi, their activity is normally confined to armed robbery of valuables from the ship’s safe, IT equipment and personal effects while the ship is approaching or anchored off ports; and cargo theft, mainly directed at oil and chemical tankers and involving the ship’s hijack for several days until the cargo is transferred by well-organized and coordinated cartels. Pirates appear to possess intelligence-gathering and maritime skills. While kidnapping occurred on some occasions, generally in connection with cargo theft or in areas characterized by political instability, ransom does not appear to be among the pirates’ primary objectives. Although this is a significant difference with Somali pirates, the fact that a ship’s crew is not seen as a value might in turn heighten safety risks, which is consistent with the fact that West African pirates have shown a greater level of violence during attacks. Engaging in a fight with the pirates is therefore strongly discouraged.

Finally, while it is possible to obtain authorization to employ protective services such as military or  police as armed escorts, the use of private armed guards is problematic, given the diversity of the legal, security and administrative frameworks and particularly considering that attacks are likely to take place within the territorial waters of States in the region, which often do not allow the operation of private security companies.

Regional States Play Key Role in Fight against Piracy in West Africa

It has been some time since we first and last spoke about the escalation of maritime piracy and armed robbery at sea in West Africa. The United Nations Security Council recently issued a statement dedicated to the emerging threat of piracy in West Africa, calling for States in the region to play a key role in countering piracy and addressing its underlying causes:

“The Security Council stresses the importance of adopting a comprehensive approach led by the countries of the region to counter the threat of piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea, as well as related criminal activities, and to address their underlying causes. The Security Council recognizes the efforts of the countries in the region in adopting relevant measures in accordance with international law to counter piracy and armed robbery at sea and to address transnational organized crime, such as drug trafficking, as well as other measures to enhance maritime safety and security.”

With the technical support of specialized UN and regional agencies, West Africa’s heads of State have already taken steps to counter piracy, including the holding of a regional meeting in Yaoundé, Cameroon, which culminated with the adoption of the Code of Conduct concerning the Prevention and Repression of Piracy, Armed Robbery against Ships, and Illegal Maritime Activities in West and Central Africa and the establishment of a coordination centre for the implementation of a regional strategy for maritime safety and security. The centre should contribute to the implementation of multi-national and trans-regional mechanisms covering the whole region of the Gulf of Guinea.

Piracy in West Africa has emerged as an additional threat to safety and trade in the region, with the number of reported attacks now surpassing those off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden. While piracy in Somalia was borne out of the collapse of State institutions and their failure to counter insecurity and enforce the rule of law, West Africa is characterized by more stable governments with enforcement powers on their territory through naval and military assets. West African States are therefore in a position, and have a duty, to play a more direct role in the fight against piracy in the region. Piracy in West Africa, however, shows links with organized transnational criminality, such as drugs, natural resources and people smuggling and thrives through corruption at both the local and central administration level, which, in turn, creates discontent and lack of trust amongst the population. Independence movements have also degenerated into committing acts of terrorism. For some time, these phenomena have plagued the region and provided the conditions for the resurgence of piracy. Among the main challenges in combating piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is therefore the development of a coordinated approach driven at the regional level, bringing together costal States as well as regional organizations and encompassing the sharing of resources, intelligence and information within the framework of a common plan of action. While fundamental distinctions remain in the pirates’ modus operandi between West and East Africa, this approach can build upon some of the lessons learned in the so far successful strategy to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden, including the modernization and harmonization of national criminal codes, upgrading of detention facilities and other infrastructures and other training or capacity building initiatives.

Upcoming Event: At Third Dubai Counter-Piracy Conference, Focus is on Rebuilding Somalia

The United Arab Emirates will host its third International Counter-Piracy Conference on 11-12 September 2013. The UAE has since long engaged in counter-piracy initiatives in the Gulf of Aden and the larger area of the Indian Ocean. The event, which will be held in Dubai, UAE is entitled “Countering Maritime Piracy: Continued Efforts for Regional Capacity Building” and follows prior conferences convened in April 2011 and June 2012. We have covered last year’s event here and here.

While the previous Conferences brought together stakeholders from both the public and private sectors to devise a framework strategy to combat piracy, at that time at its peak in the Gulf of Aden, this year’s conference will build upon the current successes against piracy and focus on developing the capacities of Somali institutions to strengthen security and long-term economic growth.

The key themes of the Conference will be:

  • Continuing to build awareness about the humanitarian and economic cost of piracy, including extending support to seafarers who are suffering from maritime piracy on the frontline;
  • Injecting a new momentum in the common search for an effective and enduring solution to piracy through collaboration across political, military, financial and legal arenas;
  • Encouraging a comprehensive, inclusive approach that can deliver a long term, sustainable solution to counter piracy, including land-based solutions;
  • Highlighting the significance of enhancing industry-government cooperation in addressing the issue through joint strategies emphasising sustainable long term solutions.

The official website of the Conference can be found here. A draft agenda as well as some of the main presentations and position papers are already available, giving a preview of the forthcoming debate.

EUCAP NESTOR: Bolstering the Rule of Law to Counter Piracy in the Horn of Africa – Interview with David HAMMOND

David HAMMONDFollowing retirement for the UK Royal Marines as a former frontline operator and then latterly as a naval barrister (Counsel), David Hammond was instructed by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office to be the UK representative and lead lawyer for the planning, establishment and delivery of the €40m European Union’s “NESTOR” Common Security and Defence policy (CSDP) Counter-Piracy Legal Advisory Programme for East Africa. As part of the advance planning team, David gained unique and valuable experience throughout East Africa, including in Somalia and where he led the legal liaison with the Somaliland and Puntland authorities at Ministerial and Attorney-General level. David successfully delivered the NESTOR Legal Advisory Programme, involving the establishment of significant rule of law programmes and which he headed up until June 2012.

As the Horn of Africa slowly progresses from a strategy of immediate counter-piracy to a strategy of post-piracy development, David kindly accepted our invitation to respond to a few questions on NESTOR’s mandate and operation. The following answers are provided on the basis that they are correct to the best of his current knowledge.

• What is EUCAP NESTOR main role in tackling piracy in the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean and, in particular, what are its main thematic areas of operation?

As per the EU Council Decision 2012/389/CFSP of 16 July 2012, the objective of EUCAP NESTOR is to assist the development in the Horn of Africa and the Western Indian Ocean States of a self-sustainable capacity for continued enhancement of their maritime security including counter-piracy, and maritime governance. EUCAP NESTOR will have initial geographic focus on Djibouti, Kenya, the Seychelles and Somalia. EUCAP NESTOR will also be deployed in Tanzania, following receipt by the Union of an invitation from the Tanzanian authorities.

In order to achieve the objective, the tasks of EUCAP NESTOR were identified as being:

(a) assist authorities in the region in achieving the efficient organisation of the maritime security agencies carrying out the coast guard function;

(b) deliver training courses and training expertise to strengthen the maritime capacities of the States in the region, initially Djibouti, Kenya and the Seychelles, with a view to achieving self-sustainability in training;

(c) assist Somalia in developing its own land-based coastal police capability supported by a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework;

(d) identify priority equipment capability gaps and provide assistance in addressing them, as appropriate, to meet the objective of EUCAP NESTOR;

(e) provide assistance in strengthening national legislation and the rule of law through a regional legal advisory programme, and legal expertise to support the drafting of maritime security and related national legislation;

(f) promote regional cooperation between national authorities responsible for maritime security;

(g) strengthen regional coordination in the field of maritime capacity building;

(h) provide strategic advice through the assignment of experts to key administrations;

(i) implement mission projects and coordinate donations;

(j) develop and conduct a regional information and communication strategy.

• Why the creation of a mission with such peculiar mandate in the Horn of Africa setting?

At that time, and as far as I was aware, it was determined that in concert with various other on-going counter-piracy initiatives, including military action by EUNAVFOR, established work by EU delegations alongside the IMO, UNODC piracy programme and the likes of the Djibouti Code of Conduct, that a land-based regional programme which imparted expert knowledge and training to judicial, constabulary and other engaged entities throughout the Horn of Africa was the most efficient and effect method of assisting with the suppression of the piracy threat. Bolstering the effectiveness of the rule of law throughout affected areas was also seen as being of key importance in assisting with regional political stability.

Hargeysa Secure Hotel and Compound - Courtesy of David Hammond

Hargeysa Secure Hotel and Compound – Courtesy of David Hammond


• What are, therefore, the main differences in the mandates of EUCAP Nestor and EUNAVFOR and how these coordinate their respective activities?

NESTOR, as described, focuses on the imparting of expert constabulary, judicial, coastguard and logistical knowledge by Member State subject matter experts through training courses. This is separate to, but compliments the military presence provided for by EUNAVFOR alongside the on-going initiatives led by the EU Special Representative for the Horn of Africa.

• What is the current status of EUCAP Nestor deployment and what will be its overall structure and geographic area of operation?

I understand that at the moment staff are currently deployed to three countries: Djibouti (Mission Headquarters), the Republic of the Seychelles and Kenya. They will operate in those countries, plus Somalia and which will be the main focus. Tanzania has been asked to participate but so far has not invited the mission to carry out work there. The mission is mandated to run for 2 years commencing from 16 Jul 2012 and is headed up by Jacques Launay.

• What were the most challenging aspects in EUCAP Nestor set up and preliminary deployment process, given its geographic and thematic breadth?

The lasting memory I have in relation to the initial stages of the pre-deployment planning for the Technical Assessment Mission (TAM) and subsequent drafting of the Concept of Operations which led to the Operational plan (OPLAN), was the positive drive and collegiate Member State political will in Brussels to make the operation work. This meant significant and sustained drafting, revision and constant presentational updates to the Political and Security Committee (PSC) from what was a small team, as set against the enormity of the task which then faced us. This was undertaken in a structured, collegiate and team-focused manner with many long days and nights spent brain-storming the successive issues that arose. This was undertaken with significant levels of professionalism from selected Member State individuals who had previously never before worked together and this often required a ready sense of humour from all of us.

For my part, once deployed in the Horn of Africa, the issue of establishing a new rule of law and legal advisory programme sat with me due to the limited size of the team. The TAM ran for over one month in total and involved multiple visits to five States by all team members. There was continuous ‘hot’ planning, setting up of meetings on the sour of the moment and exploiting every opportunity to meet key in-country stakeholders. It was what I would call “quick and dirty planning and mission development” and which proved most successful.

The biggest challenge was, in my mind, to achieve local buy-in for our mission and its purpose. This meant that I needed to identify and seek out the key decision makers at every stage and convince them of the benefits of the EU mission and especially of the merits of the Legal Advisory Programme.

Meeting with Puntland Attorney General - Courtesy of David Hammond

Meeting with Puntland Attorney General – Courtesy of David Hammond

 

The most striking mission development work for the Legal Advisory Programme that I undertook, was in Somaliland and Puntland alongside the judicial and ministerial authorities. This included being present at piracy trials in the Garowe court and spending time in discussion with the Attorney General, before going on to meet with the Chief Justice and Minister of Justice and Religious Affairs for Puntland. The issue of extending the rule of law into the coastal areas, as well as support within the IDP camps for education in terms of women’s rights and humanitarian law was of particular note and interest for me. Subsequently, I was able to draft the individual programmes that would assist in some of those areas of articulated need and which was most gratifying. In Somaliland, the essence of the interactions were the same in terms of seeking out areas in which we could assist the authorities with the development of the rule of law through imparting knowledge via training and advisory roles.

• Current available data shows that piracy attacks in Somalia are diminishing. Is this the result of the international community efforts to combat piracy and what impact will this have on the continuation of such efforts, particularly the full implementation of EUCAP Nestor mandate? 

I am informed that the decrease in attacks is due to a variety of factors, including: EUNAVFOR’s ATALANTA operation and other naval operations, greater use of PSCs, greater use of best practices to avoid risks as well as improved information sharing. However, I am informed that this reduction is probably fragile and could be reversed without careful oversight. As such, the environment in which EUCAP NESTOR was envisaged to act has changed, but arguably there is now an even greater need for the mission as the success of reducing piracy at sea has opened the possibility of doing even more to create security and stability on land, which will provide the conditions for a lasting reduction in piracy.

David Hammond can be contacted at:

david.hammond@9bedfordrow.co.uk

http://www.9bedfordrow.co.uk/members/David_Hammond

http://uk.linkedin.com/in/davideuanhammond