EU Lessons from Fighting Piracy off Somalia’s Coast

Written by | Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

One of the priorities of the 2014 EU Chairmanship of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) has been to adequately document the lessons learned from the Contact Group. According to a study recently published by ‘European Union Institute for Security Studies’, the Contact Group grew from a limited diplomatic initiative launched in 2009 as an elastic instrument in the fight against Somali piracy and, by 2014, had stimulated effective and coordinated action by stakeholders from virtually every sector of global society affected by the problem of piracy. The study notes that, as a result of this international initiative, firstly, no commercial ship has been captured since 10 May 2012; secondly, pirates are holding no merchant ship for ransom; and, thirdly, fewer than 50 hostages remain in captivity, all of whom were taken by pirates on or before 26 March 2012.

Thanks to the Contact Group’s efforts, three crucial counter-piracy policies were adopted: Firstly, the remarkable voluntary operational coordination among naval counter-piracy forces operating in the region; secondly, the measures taken by the shipping industry, including privately contracted armed security teams embarked on commercial ships and, thirdly, the creation of a legal framework for counter piracy. None of these three aspects had been formulated, nor enforced before 2009. The Contact Group provided a forum for political debate and discussions that ultimately enabled these critical efforts to succeed. Since then, the debate has moved to the question of fighting piracy onshore, which is pivotal in resolving the problem in its complexity. The study also emphasizes the need to acknowledge the key motive for the pirates who rely solely on the economic model of the ransom payment and for whom the cash flow becomes the focal point.

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