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Somalia: Piracy

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 11 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government has taken to prevent piracy (a) in Somalian territorial waters and (b) on the high seas off Somalia; and what assessment he has made of levels of piracy activity in those areas in each of the last three years. (254250)

The UK has taken a comprehensive approach to the problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia.

The Royal Navy is combating acts of piracy on the high seas off Somalia, and acts of armed robbery in Somali Territorial Waters. We are providing the Operation Headquarters and Operation Commander for the EU's operation (Atalanta) to protect World Food programme shipping and to deter piracy. We are providing a frigate for the first phase of the operation and we contributed to a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation counter piracy mission in 2008. We have a leading role in the planning and execution of military counter-piracy operations through the Combined Maritime Forces in the region. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary negotiated a new UN Security Council Resolution (1851) further consolidating the international commitment to deal effectively with piracy. The UK is a member of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia which met for the first time in New York on 14 January 2009, and we will host the Working Group tasked to encourage greater international co-ordination and co-operation. In addition we continue to work closely with the shipping industry, advising on best practice for counter piracy self defence.

Ultimately piracy is a symptom of wider issues. We continue our efforts to address these, and are encouraging the European Commission and other partners to increase targeted support for governance/economic development in Somalia, in particular in coastal areas. In 2007-08, the UK provided over £25 million of humanitarian and development assistance to Somalia. For 2008-09, this was increased to £30 million.

Although there has been a significant increase in the number of successful pirate attacks in the last three years (10 in 2006, 35 in 2007, 43 in 2008 and three so far in 2009), piracy off the Somali coast continues to affect a very small proportion of the shipping that transits the area. Since Operation Atalanta established the Maritime Security Centre for the Horn of Africa in December 2008 no vessel registered with it has been successfully pirated.