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Somalia: Piracy

Volume 498: debated on Monday 2 November 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many incidents of piracy involving (a) UK-owned vessels and (b) UK citizens have occurred in the waters off the coast of Somalia since January 2009; and if he will make a statement. (296898)

As of 29 October 2009 there has only been one incident with UK citizens onboard this year, which involved the UK-owned yacht Lynn Rival with two UK citizens onboard.

In May 2009 there was an attempted attack on the UK-owned merchant vessel Hibiya Park but the attack was disrupted.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what financial assistance his Department has provided for international efforts to tackle piracy in the waters off the coast of Somalia since 2008; and if he will make a statement. (296899)

As part of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has led and funded two needs assessments missions alongside the EU, UN and US to the countries surrounding Somalia in order to assess the priorities for development in the legal, judicial, penal and maritime sectors. They have visited Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Yemen, Tanzania and the Seychelles. The FCO has also funded the participation of key partners, such as Somali representatives, at meetings of Working Group 1 of the CGPCS. It has also funded UK attendance at national and international meetings discussing efforts to counter piracy.

The UK is contributing to three international counter-piracy operations: providing the operation headquarters and operation commander to the EU Naval Force (Operation Atalanta); a frigate, tanker, and deputy commander to the Combined Maritime Forces; and a frigate and the current command of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 conducting Operation Ocean Shield. The FCO contributes to the UK’s tri-departmental assessed contributions of £1.2 million towards the cost of Operation Atalanta. The UK also provides the UK Maritime Trade Organisation, coordinating the movement of merchant shipping and acting as a first point of contact for any ships attacked in the region.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of international efforts to tackle piracy in the waters around the coast of Somalia; and if he will make a statement. (296900)

Although this year has seen an increase in the number of attempted pirate attacks (156 attacks from January-September 2009, compared to 111 attacks from January-September 2008), the number of successful attacks has reduced significantly, especially in the critical Gulf of Aden transit artery. According to International Maritime Bureau statistics the actual rate of successful hijacking against attacks has reduced from one in three in December 2008 to one in 11 in June 2009.

Up to 30 September 2009 the EU Naval Force had successfully escorted 44 World Food Programme (WFP) vessels, providing 220,880 tons of aid to Somalia, which the WFP would otherwise not have been able to send.

Furthermore international efforts to tackle piracy off the coast of Somalia have achieved unprecedented levels of naval coordination with international partners including India and China coordinating their efforts with EU, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and coalition forces through a Shared Awareness and Deconfliction forum. The Contact Group of Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) represents 53 nations. The CGPCS also established the New York Declaration (to which the UK is a signatory) that strengthens best management practices in dealing with piracy as well as supporting regional capabilities to tackle piracy.

The international community in conjunction with the International Maritime Organisation have also established a code of best practice for industry while travelling off the coast of Somalia. Between December 2008 and October 2009 there has only been one successful attack on a ship complying with best management practices while transiting the Gulf of Aden. Agreements have been initiated with Kenya and the Seychelles to allow pirates apprehended in the region to be prosecuted there.

Collectively, these measures are improving the effectiveness of the international community’s efforts to tackle piracy off the coast of Somalia, but in the long term the solution has to be found on land. To this end Working Group 1 (chaired by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) led a regional needs assessment to the Horn of Africa in September 2009, which provided a clear map on how regional states can be assisted in addressing piracy on land as well as at sea.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many times Working Group 1 of the Contact Group on Piracy off the coast of Somalia has met since its formation; and what topics were discussed at such meetings. (296901)

Working Group 1 of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia has met five times since its formation. It is chaired by the UK and has met formally four times and once informally. The meetings discuss, among other issues, how international warships can better coordinate their operations, how to improve regional capacity to prosecute suspect pirates, and how the shipping industry can better protect itself from attack.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what guidance his Department has issued on travelling in waters around the coast of Somalia; and if he will make a statement. (296936)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) provides specific recommendations both to commercial vessels and to members of the public while travelling near Somali waters. This information is available on the FCO website.

In terms of commercial advice, specific guidance is given in relation to the practical steps in avoiding pirates which have been shown to significantly reduce the chances of a successful pirate attack. The advice also links to guidance from Department of Transport and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. It advises ships to register with the EU's Maritime Security—Horn of Africa website and transit through the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor in addition to adhering to the latest Maritime Advisories in force throughout the piracy threat region.

The Government endorse the advice prepared by the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia which provides specific advice on how to prevent, deter and delay acts of piracy off the Horn of Africa. The Maritime Security Centre—Horn of Africa website contains general advice to shipping companies, and the UK Maritime Trade Organisation advises mariners on planning their passage through the Gulf of Aden.

As Chair of Working Group 1 of the Contact Group on Piracy off the coast of Somalia (CGPCS), the FCO has been instrumental in securing greater dissemination and adherence to industry's best practice for vessels travelling in the waters in the vicinity off the coast of Somalia. The FCO also signed the New York Declaration which provided further guidance to industry in relation to best management practices to avoid and deter acts of piracy.

In terms of specific advice to members of the public travelling in waters in the vicinity of the coast of Somalia, the FCO advises mariners to remain at least 200 nautical miles from the Somali coast when transiting between the equator and 08N latitude, and 100 nautical miles from Somalia's northern coastline in the Gulf of Aden. However, as pirates have been using mother ships to attack shipping further than 200 nautical miles from the Somali coast, the FCO also advises mariners to maintain a high level of vigilance and to exercise extreme caution when anywhere near Somali waters.

This advice is provided within the FCO's travel advice relating to the Indian Ocean as well as more specifically the advice provided to individuals intending to travel to Seychelles, Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania. The River and Sea Safety section of travel advice also advises yachters travelling in their own yacht or boat to be aware of the risks of piracy in the Indian Ocean.