The EU on Tuesday boosted the fight against piracy in the Horn of Africa region by providing 37 million euros (U.S. $48.1 million dollars) towards strengthening the fight against the vice in Eastern and Southern African countries.
In a statement, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said the new funding under the Regional Maritime Security program will help to develop the legal and judicial system of countries in the region, so that they are better equipped for the arrest and transfer of pirates.
“This new funding is another sign of our commitment to stamping out piracy. It forms part of our comprehensive approach to assisting countries in the region, which means that we deal with the causes as well as the symptoms of piracy,” Ashton said in a statement.
Funding comes as the number of attacks off the coast of Somalia related to Somali pirates has reduced drastically with five incidents being reported in the first quarter of 2013 including the hijacking of a fishing vessel and its 20-member crew.
The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has however warned of complacency in its latest quarterly report for January-March, saying the risk of being approached or attacked still exists.
Maritime officials said the drop in reported attacks is due to proactive naval actions against suspect Pirate Action Groups, the employment of privately contracted armed security personnel and the preventive measures used by the merchant vessels.
Since Somali piracy is largely a hijack-for-ransom business, it relies heavily on onshore support for infrastructure that provides food, water, fuel and the leafy narcotic ‘khat’ to the militiamen who guard the hi-jacked ships throughout the ransom negotiation process.
The statement said that due to EU efforts piracy has decreased from 299 attacks in 2011 to 111 in 2012 (a reduction of over 62 per cent), while the number of hijackings dropped from 25 to 12.
EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said the funding marked a step forward in the fight against piracy because it demonstrates the EU’s on-going commitment to combating this complex problem.
“Strengthening security in the maritime routes is crucial for us because it will help boosting trade and growth in the region, which would enormously improve people’s lives,” said Piebalgs.
The EU’s support comes barely a month after the United Nations approved U.S. $ two million dollars to help curb piracy in the Horn of Africa region particularly off the coast of Somalia.
The UN Trust Fund for the Fight against Piracy approved a package of projects in support of anti-piracy efforts in Somalia and other affected States including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Maldives and the Seychelles.
“The dramatic decline in pirate attacks is clear evidence of years of hard work by United Nations Member States, international and regional organizations, and actors in the shipping industry,” said UN Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Taye- Brook Zerihoun, who chaired the Board of the Trust Fund to Support Initiatives of States.
According to EU which has been present in the Horn of Africa region since 2008 via its anti-piracy taskforce, financial oversight systems will also be strengthened, by providing training for the authorities to prevent the movement of funds contributing to, or resulting from piracy.
In Somalia, it said, the program will also carry out anti- piracy awareness campaigns in areas where piracy is prevalent; as well as providing vulnerable groups of young men with training so that they successfully pursue alternative vocations.
The Horn of Africa has itself also suffered considerably from the impact of piracy. Increased trade costs are estimated to cost the country U.S. $ six million dollars annually; and this figure does not take into account that Somalia cannot develop and expand its maritime trade and fisheries as long as pirates are allowed to operate in its waters.
Xafiiska Wararka Midnimo, firstname.lastname@example.org