Enhancing Maritime Security

With 90 percent of the world’s trade carried by sea, maritime security is a key lever of the global economy. “No shipping, no shopping,” is how Africa Center Adjunct Professor Ian Ralby sums it up. “If we don’t secure the maritime domain, our entire way of life will change.”

The Seychelles, a 115-island archipelago in the Indian Ocean, has been at the vanguard of protecting the maritime domain and prosecuting maritime crimes, not only in its territorial waters, but along much of Africa’s east coast. Since 2010 when the first trial of 11 pirates was staged in Victoria, Seychelles has mounted 17 trials and processed a total of 142 pirates, the largest number of pirates tried by any nation in the region.

Seychelles locationFrom March 19–23, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies held the latest in its long series of maritime security programs, Enhancing Maritime Security, in the Seychelles to see firsthand the country’s approach to combatting criminality on the seas and discussing common challenges and lessons learned. More than 50 maritime security officials from 34 countries and regional organizations attended.

Participants highlighted the value of a whole-of-Africa maritime dialogue; the importance of keeping pace with the dynamic nature of maritime crime beyond piracy; the challenge of legal finish (successful prosecution, conviction, and detention) to deter these crimes; and the importance of the blue economy as an economic growth engine not just for littoral states, but landlocked ones as well who must rely on their coastal neighbors for shipping and trade.

Relatedly, participants recognized that African states have a challenge with maritime wealth blindness in addition to overall marine domain awareness but were greatly inspired by Seychellois’ efforts to adopt innovative approaches on both fronts.

After his keynote address on adjudicating and penalizing maritime crimes, Judge Anthony Fernando, who serves on the Seychelles Court of Appeals and has presided over 66 maritime cases, led participants on a tour of the main courthouse and piracy court. He was joined by Supreme Court Chief Justice Mathilda Twomey and President of the Court of Appeals Francis MacGregor, who explained how cases are processed through the court system.

Program participants also had the opportunity to visit an Iranian dhow captured by the Seychelles Coast Guard in the largest ever drug seizure in the country’s territorial waters. Officials at the Regional Center for Operations Coordination—an information-sharing union including the Seychelles, Comoros, Réunion (France), Madagascar, and Mauritius—explained how cooperative operations and technology have improved the region’s ability to track criminal vessels in the Indian Ocean.

In addition, Philippe Michaud, senior fisheries advisor to the Seychelles’ vice president, gave a presentation on illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. Other program sessions discussed maritime security initiatives around Africa, legal harmonization, and current best practices in prosecuting maritime crimes.
Source: African Center for Strategic Studies

Rising security threats pose real danger to maritime industry, warns MAST

Conflicts and tensions in the South China Sea and sub-Saharan Africa pose a real threat to the maritime environment and some of the world’s most important shipping lanes, with 48 criminal incidents recorded in the first quarter of 2017, maritime risk management company MAST has warned.

According to MAST’s Risk Map that logs international maritime incidents in real time, the instability of Somalia and Yemen in the western Indian Ocean and the west coast of Africa are intrinsically linked to rising piracy and criminal activity at sea, with 22 reported attacks in the first quarter of this year.

Despite substantial suppression of piracy in the Indian Ocean region, which at its peak in 2008 cost the global economy around $6bn, the rising numbers make the area a potentially dangerous route for commercial vessels and trade into Europe again.

Poverty and famine, combined with a lack of opportunity, are major drivers for piracy in the region. The international community must therefore work together to support those many people in desperate need of help, MAST warns.

International tension around China’s approach to the Spratly Islands and South China Sea should also cause concern within the shipping community, given their location, China’s aggressive defence of them and President Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). MAST reported a total of 17 maritime crime incidents across Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia. Commercial vessels may already be re-routing around these islands and any escalation of tensions in the area could cause increased disruption to trade in the Far East.

Of the 48 incidents in the first three months of this year, 36 involved a ship being boarded by unknown assailants resulting in a robbery, and some cases leading to the ship being hijacked. Reports of criminal activity were also reported in South America (5) and South Asia (4).

Gerry Northwood OBE, COO of MAST and former Royal Navy counter-piracy commander, said: “It is clear is that the maritime environment is linked to global events and not immune to crime and terrorism in their many forms, and that countries overwhelmed by political instability and conflict pose a threat to the shipping routes that they border or have influence over.

“Despite the hard work undertaken by international navies and organisations to tackle piracy at its peak some years ago, recent events have shown the scales are tipping back in the favour of those who would commit or support acts of piracy. The levels of maritime crime recorded in just the first three months of this year show that now is not the time to relax security measures. While some areas may not see an immediate existential threat of piracy or only have a low number of attacks or suspicious activity, the danger and severity of each case is not lessened.

“World shipping depends on the freedom of movement through these areas and so the time is now right for global security standards to be properly enforced and made fit for purpose. The success of Best Management Practice and other measures in the fight against maritime crime in the Indian Ocean has shown that such a goal is now achievable, but it will take input and agreement from many different stakeholders to make the High Seas a safer place to live and work.”
Source: MAST