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18th Apr 13Managed by Chatham House
Financed by DEFRA
IMO to tackle coastal piracy
AN innovative plan to tackle piracy and crime syndicates is underway for central and west Africa's ports and Exclusive Economic Zones. The International Maritime Organization's security division has provided a platform between 24 west African states to link coastguards with bodies such as Interpol, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and High Commissioner for Refugees, navies, insurers and other 'action' partners.
IMO maritime security chief Chris Trelawny says the concept was broadly accepted in February by the 53 member states of the African Union, and making it happen is a range of people in the 25-country Maritime Organisation for West and Central Africa.
Mr Trelawny says one way of funding severe under-investment in port and sea surveillance is by tightening the net around illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.
He said Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia alone are losing some $140m a year. Sub-Saharan Africa loses up to $1bn and up to 40% of the global fish catch may be illegal, unregulated and unreported. Governments also lose catch-licence revenues.
Mr Trelawny said that the project is 'moving along nicely'. He said IMO's remit is maritime security, including energy security (of tankers and port installations) combating piracy, ensuring safety at sea, vessel seaworthiness and port security.
Officials at an IMO-MOWCA meeting in Accra agreed they could combine general security with action against illegal fishing and linked crime syndicates. This is an 'easy-to-start, multi-agency approach through the three Cs: co-ordination, co-operation and communication,' Mr Trelawny said.
Earlier this year, at the second international conference on IUU, organised in London by the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Lloyd's List also talked to Mr Trelawny after he spelt out why it was essential to see the bigger 'crime' scenario surrounding piracy.
Piracy and IUU, off Nigeria for example, are not just a 'bit of poaching, but armed robbery,' he said. The need is to tackle a long tentacle of organised crime with global links running through transhipment at sea, ports and container depots and into the land supply chains.
Officials at the IUU conference alleged they had evidence that such links reach right into port operations and onto major shipping and food companies in the EU.
Mr Trelawny noted there is an important role for the insurance industry — which has consultant IMO status and often foots the final bill — as well as for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (narcotics smuggling) and the UNHCR (on illegal migration).
Likewise, involving Interpol could help track crime networks, from illegal fish and drugs to sex worker trafficking and counterfeit goods, in pursuit of the rackets' masterminds.
Many countries facing the problem, Mr Trelawny said, do not have the money for fuel, never mind the hardware to run adequate surveillance at sea or port security. Patrol boats 'gifted' by rich nations are often stuck in port because crew have no training for action or basic maintenance.
The action plans include training by the UK Royal Navy, which, like the US Navy, is interested in the Gulf of Guinea because of energy supply security. 'We are not trying to raid the fishing industry — just saying that if you run it properly it will provide extra revenue,' Mr Trelawny said.
'This is our Integrated Coast Guard Function Network. We do not care if it is the navy [or] the army in a couple of canoes, so long as somebody is doing it.'
All too often, he added, ministers of transport and fisheries ministers are unable to use the navy to help tackle maritime crime. The plans include mobilising navy vessels, which could work as 'buses', doing their 'navy business', but also as a platform to carry fishery inspection staff to board suspects. With the right legal agreements, surveillance vessels could help by operating in another country's zone.
Doubts were cast on the value of 'hot pursuit', since identification is often enough to lead to later arrest in port. The ICFN and navy vessels would be able to maximise their use of registry data from IMO, FAO and regional fisheries organisations, and benefit from electronic tracking (radar, satellite and growing real-time internet connectivity) on legal vessels. Increased links with fishermen could also mean more eyes at sea to raise alerts.
'We would like to see the insurance sector take an interest where ports are putting in place security measures which are consequently reducing the incidence of theft, smuggling and illegal migration... Maybe there could be spin-off at some stage [so that] ports and ships, which comply with security, will get some form of financial reward for that from the insurance [sector],' Mr Trelawny suggested.
Officials and non-governmental organisations told the London IUU meeting that they draw data not just from the IMO, Lloyd's Register and FAO, but also news sources such as Lloyd's List, in order to collate grey and black lists of suspect vessels. That includes reefers, which they said are being widely used for collection and transhipment of illegal catches, and international transport for landing the fish — and probably other illegal cargo.
The North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission said its new port control landing scheme, which started on May 1, only took a week to produce 'groundbreaking results from the blacklisting of flag of convenience IUU vessels'. NEAFC President Stefan smundsson told a NEAFC meeting in June that the results had been 'almost sensational' from the NEAFC A- and B-lists which are used for monitoring.
He said at that time there were '20 fishing vessels and reefers on the B-list. Of these, six notorious pirates, which have fished illegally for redfish in the Irminger Sea [off Iceland and Greenland] have been confirmed to be on their way for scrapping after being held back in NEAFC ports. Nine other fishing vessels and reefers are held back in NEAFC ports and five are known to be operating outside the North Atlantic,' he said.
'These measures must be seen as a major breakthrough in the battle against IUU fishing, establishing concrete, practical arrangements for strengthening control of port states.'
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