Maritime experts in new drive to counter piracy

By Patrick Beja

Maritime experts have embarked on a pilot project to combat piracy in the Horn of Africa.

The experts held a conference at the Mombasa Continental Resort to plan on how to counter piracy in the region. It included a demonstration of the programme at the Kenya Maritime Authority’s (KMA) Regional Maritime Rescue and Co-ordination Centre (RMRCC) based at the port of Mombasa.

Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) director general Mrs Nancy Karigithu stressed the need to build capacity for maritime domain awareness in the midst of emerging security threats.

“I acknowledge that maritime cooperation is now a necessary step in dealing with increasing maritime issues such as the crimes of piracy, terrorism, illicit trade and illegitimate exploitation of marine resources, and requires coordinated security awareness and broader collaboration in order to mount effective response to these threats,” Karigithu said.

The conference was sponsored by the European Commission through the Joint Research Centre in Naples, Italy. It brought together decision makers in maritime administrations and coast guards with responsibility for maritime domain awareness from Kenya, US Navy, Seychelles, Yemen, Belgium, Zambia, India, Djibouti, Mauritius, Comoros, Botswana, La Reunion Island, French military, Italy, Mozambique, Madagascar, Maldives and European Union as well as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

Illegal fishing

Ms Alessandra Zampieri, Head of Unit at the Institute for the Protection and Security of Citizen (IPSC)- European Commission-Joint Research Centre, said the aim of  Piracy, Maritime Awareness and Risks (PMAR) tool was to build up maritime domain awareness as a key enabler to combating piracy by maritime authorities in the region.

“The tool which is tailored to the region’s needs within a civilian context for data sharing would boost maritime governance by addressing piracy and other maritime safety and security issues such as illegal fishing, immigration and pollution,” said Ms Zampieri.

She added that the project would closely relate with the IMO’s counter-piracy activities and those from other countries as well as with the activities of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.

Mombasa through the RMRCC has been identified for the launch of the pilot project whose system integrates data from vessel reporting systems such as the Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT), Automatic Identification System (AIS) and Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) and earth observation systems like the vessel detections from satellite into one single maritime picture.

This would result into setting up of a PMAR- like functionality in the region. The threats of piracy off the Coast of Somalia and the Indian Ocean region have been high and have come with huge costs particularly accruing from insurance.

Maritime sources estimate that marine insurance resulting from piracy is in the region of Sh8 billion a year.

Economic activities like cruise tourism have been brought to their knees in the region owing to threats of piracy. Ships owners are resorting to hiring Privately Contracted Security Personnel in reaction to the hijacking of vessels for ransom.

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