Counter-Piracy Contact Group Meets in New York

Posted by David McKeeby
June 9, 2009
The U.S. Delegation to the Contact Group on Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia Watches the Proceedings at the United Nations in New York
Contact Group Delegates Meet in a Formal Session
Acting Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Greg Delawie Chairs a Meeting of the Full Contact Group
Diplomat Dave Foran Working on the Communiqué
Representatives from the Bahamas, the Marshall Islands, Liberia, and Panama Sign the New York Declaration

About the Author: David McKeeby is a Public Affairs Specialist in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

Piracy may have largely dropped out of the headlines here in the United States, but these armed gangs at sea remain a serious threat to global shipping and humanitarian aid transiting the Horn of Africa.

On May 29, representatives from over 30 countries and international organizations participating in the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia met at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. I got to come along for the ride ─ my first time as part of an official U.S. diplomatic delegation! Here’s what happened...

First, let me tell you a couple of things about the Contact Group. Think of it as kind of a diplomatic “pick-up” team ─ 28 countries and six international organizations (the African Union, the Arab League, the European Union, the International Maritime Organization, NATO, and the UN Secretariat) who have created an informal forum to share information and coordinate efforts against piracy.

The Contact Group gives countries a new way to come together to creatively use what Secretary Clinton calls “smart power” to coordinate a broad range of diplomatic and security efforts to confront piracy in the short to medium term, while parallel international development initiatives to bring stability to Somalia continue in other multilateral bodies, such as the United Nations International Contact Group on Somalia.

Most of the Contact Group’s work is done in its four working groups:

• Military and Operational Coordination, Information Sharing, and Capacity Building, chaired by the United Kingdom;
• Judicial Issues, chaired by Denmark;
• Commercial Industry Coordination, chaired by the United States; and
• Public Information, chaired by Egypt.

Two big developments came out of the Contact Group meeting:

The New York Declaration: While multinational naval patrols can help improve security conditions, the pirate “danger zone” covers an area of ocean four times the size of Texas ─ there simply aren’t enough naval ships in the entire world to protect all of it! Therefore, private industry has a vital role in protecting their ships from attempted boarding by pirates. During the meeting, representatives from Panama, Liberia, the Bahamas, and the Marshall Islands signed a statement saying that they will require all ships registered in their countries to do just that ─ a significant step because the maritime registries of these four countries account for over half of the world’s shipping!

A New International Trust Fund: Bringing piracy suspects to justice can require unusual expenses, such as when witnesses from the ship’s country have to testify in another country where a trial is taking place. The Contact Group endorsed the creation of an International Trust Fund with administrative help by the United Nations to help defray the expenses associated with the prosecution of suspected pirates, as well as other activities related to combating piracy.

Bottom line, many countries may be affected in a single pirate attack ─ from the owners of the vessel to the country in which the ship is registered, and from where the ship’s cargo is being transported to the crew’s countries of citizenship. Each has a responsibility to take action against piracy as surely as all countries ultimately bear the burden of piracy in the form of increased risk to global shipping and humanitarian aid deliveries.

Each Contact Group participant can choose their contribution, be it naval vessels, hosting prosecutions of suspected pirates, contributing to the new international trust fund, or a combination of the above. A lot of work remains ahead, but the Contact Group meeting marked solid progress against a shared security challenge.

Comments

Comments

Ron
|
New York, USA
June 9, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

The UN Crime Commission sessions at Vienna; and to some degree, the UN Drugs Sessions have always dealt with Piracy on the agendas. It is only with the intensified rogue status of Somalia, that the issue has come to the fore. Piracy is an outgrowth of rule-of-law breakdowns in regions where corruption and organized crime have reached serious proportions.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
June 10, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ David, I didn't hear mention of a ground game strategy by this "pick up team" to address pirates where they live- on land.

Until folks figure one out we're still going to be dealing with pirates at sea, so what if any progress in this area can be mentioned as far as strategy and planning is concerned?

Donald
|
Virginia, USA
June 10, 2009

Donald in Virginia writes:

I totally agree with this panel more has to be done to prevent pirates from capturing people and trade.

In life you can be blessed many ways even without money. I have had my life saved and personally saved over 6 lives. Counting my many blessings of 12 or more times in situations that could of lead to death. This is why I believe in Angels. I still remember being trapped in a log in a Louisana bayou creek as a kid, under ten feet of water, my uncle saved my life.

I have been my submitting an idea with the NTSB, FBI and FAA to bring upon a Survival POD for Aircraft and vehicles. It's shocking that nobody seems to be interested, there more concerned about adding speed display or increasing the black boxes, when we all know good in well, "The black box" survives the crash, people are dragged out of the ocean.

Let me explain my theory, we use special material when making helmets for motorist who drive motor bikes on the highways. The shell of my idea is using that material which protects your body. The POD should be flame and fire retardant ensuring the heat would not penetrate the passenger. Then at the rear of the POD should have a parachute. Imagine sitting inside a POD Chair on a plane. Including survival equipment in portable boxes, like a flair, emergency lights, batteries, Meals ready to eat, a fire sparker, a device to communicate with, possibly a prepaid cell phone. This should also include a life preserver and the ability for oxygen to get into the POD.

Here is the situation at hand - A real onboard emergency on a flight. Using this as an example: The engines fail, and one wing is on fire. Inside the cockpit even the Captain and crew have POD's. The Captain would use his radio to declar the emergency, and knowing he would not make it, he then pulls a cord which activates the rows of passengers in portable POD's to be evacuated out emergency doors, replace the windows on planes with emergency doors. Then row by row on a plane, each of the POD's with passengers would just depart the aircraft, once the POD ejects outside safe, the Parachute OPENS. This idea would make safe flying for everyone on earth!!! I believe this would make safer travel for pilots in helicoters, planes and even trains in future.

David M.
June 10, 2009

DipNote Blogger David McKeeby writes:

@ Eric -- You are correct and raise a very important point: the long-term solution to piracy is on land in successful efforts by the Somali people to form a government that can secure their territory and provide essential services -- key considerations outside the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia's mission.

While the Contact Group has done some work on land to assess regional coast guard capacity, it has no "ground game" and for a good reason. Its work is focused on short- to medium- term efforts to confront piracy through information sharing and coordination of diplomatic and security operations -- as its name clearly states -- off the coast of Somalia.

But at the same time, many Contact Group participants, including the United States, are also active in parallel long-term diplomatic efforts to promote stability in Somalia, such as the UN-led Djibouti peace process and the United Nations International Contact Group on Somalia.

Coordinating short-term diplomatic and security efforts with longer term development initiatives is a complex foreign policy challenge, not just in Somalia, but in many other places around the world. It is a prime example of "smart power" in action, and something that policymakers here at the Department, together with our colleagues across the U.S. government, are intensely mindful of, and one we're engaging on with our international partners every day.

Ron
|
New York, USA
June 10, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

More on Piracy...

Is it possible that the price of piracy is now factored into the global sea-freight industry? If this is true; aren't these multi-national Corps. and the licensing countries complicit in piracy? The analogy with the global
drugs and other illici trades is pretty clear....governments permit this traffick; and benefit via bribery, kickbacks, political power and in other ways....all at the expense of the people they purport to protect. Piracy in this paradigm, is the highjacking of a civil society.

Donald
|
Virginia, USA
June 10, 2009

Donald in Virginia writes:

The tactics will have to be constantly changed in order to capture the pirates. Martime International Laws need to be updated to handle the current crisis, allowing the entire crew be armed and trained on commercial vessels at sea. I have submitted a number of methods Ship owners can try to avoid being captured by the pirates. Detection is always the big key in survival at sea. The first to detect, usually has the best advantage over the other in strategy. Which means ships need to start installing better security equipment onboard vessels having more eyes around the area, better surface radar to pickup small vessels. Surveillence is very critical, having cameras mounted on the fantails, and on the sides of the ships, posting watches around the ship with weapons when travelling through the area of concern.

Ship captains and crew should be training while at sea, testing their security measures, setting condition "ZEBRA" which means locking down the entire ship and defending itself against an attack. This should include cruise ships, fishing boats, anything that sails in horn of Africa.

First step is have a Secuirty Plan to identify what the crew will do during the Security Alerts. The crew should be manned up to know in seconds where to go, best locations on the ship to defend and protect. The Captain on the vessels should practise these security alert drills until the entire crew can do it from memory.

This should also include medical as well as security. Awareness keeps people alive. Diplomatic and United Nations should address the country of Somalia on the ground to bring manufacturing jobs, or a future to Somalia so they don't totally rely on piracy as a living to live. Other thoughts on the matter should include jamming frequencies the pirates might be using, creating safe zones for the US Navy to patrol and allowing the merchant ships to pass through without the pirates gaining access.

If the pirates are using cell phones, then isn't about time to either jam or shutdown those phone calls. Plus it would be another form of capturing those pirates, when they communicate at sea. A frequency net should be setup to passive listen and detect the location of where the cell calls or radio calls come from at sea. This also would benefit the US Navy and Merchant ships intelligence is a wonderful tool.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
June 11, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

http://blogs.state.gov/index.php/entries/seaways_piracy/

In your last entry, I was challenged by John in Greece to come up with a workable, fiscally sound, "final solution" to this problem.

Your contact group played an important part in my thinking, and I hope you'll forgive my intent to introduce "mission creep" into a maritime effort, but I looked at the overall as to what the situation required, not from a short, med. or long aspect separately, but as parameters of the overall implementation of a single combined multilateral effort that addressed all aspects of the Somali crisis with one very clearly defined mandate.

I figure one good challenge deserved another, and though think tank town didn't take up my challenge to deliver a better idea on really short notice, I'll be gentleman about it and give them another chance to do so in public if you're willing to make the phone calls to CSIS, AEI, Brookings, and anyone else that might want to take a crack at it..

( Incentive based, results oriented, goal driven government is the responsibility of the citizen to promote.)

Since I have heard nothing concrete from anyone since as to what a "ground game" looks like, I thank you for at least offering me some hope the thoughts I put forward have not fallen on deaf ears.

I had to ask the question, but I must give credit where credit is due. Sen. Fiengold's succinct observation in sub-comittee hearing that "pirates live on land, not ships" pretty well defined the parameters.

And I do believe that if we are intending to convince pirates to change occupations, we'll need to be making house calls.

In any case, it's not my decision to make. I just hope I helped put an additional option on the president's desk.

And that's what I was hoping those phone calls would generate, along with a healthy public debate.

David M.
|
District Of Columbia, USA
June 11, 2009

DipNote Blogger David McKeeby writes:

@ Donald -- very interesting points. Thanks for sharing.

Donald
|
Virginia, USA
June 11, 2009

Donald in Virginia writes:

A NEW TRAINING FILM TO COMBAT AGAINST PIRACY

I would be willing to make a training film which can help Merchant ships defend themselves in a piracy situation. I am a United States Navy veteran who had recieved the ensigna "Surface Warefare Specialist onboard the USS George Washington Aircraft Carrier and have years of Security along with Naval experience. If the State Department is willing to produce and be apart of this film. It would enhance the Ship owners and give them better tools to fight off the pirates. The film can be State Department copyrighted and used throughout the world training countries on how to deal with security threats. Especially, our allies who send very critical supplies to other countries in the world.

Something like this might be a wonderful tool for all merchant ships and boats along with cruise ships that pass through the Horn of Africa.

I would need a mockup ship, a filming crew with a location to make the film. During the film all weapons will not be real, just look like the real thing. I would need some people to act or pretend being sailors onboard the mockup ship to create the atmosphere of the real thing. This is also to include a rhib with a crew operating pretending to be pirates. Then showing the positive points and the weakeness points of when the Pirates are trying to capture the merchant vessel.

This film could be introduced in the United Nations as well, showing leaders around the world how to better defend against the threat of piracy.

I'm also certified in the use of real weapons like the colt. AR15 ASSAULT WEAPON, .38 CAL. PISTOL, REMMINGTON 12 GAUGE PUMP ACTION with the State of Virginia.

I have years working with "Defense Tactics, use of Restraints and surviablity experience.

If the State Department is interested, let me know, and if they can approve the funding for this film. It would save lives and better defend against the security threats of pirates.

.

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