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SPEECH/12/247

Siim Kallas

Vice-President and Commissioner for Transport

Vice President Siim Kallas key note speech

Piracy Seminar, 28-29 March 2012

Brussels, 28 March 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished speakers and guests, dear colleagues,

It is a pleasure to be here with you today at the beginning of this two-day seminar on piracy. There is no time any more for ceremonial meetings. We need to sit down and agree on the concrete next steps to be taken.

Acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships represent a serious threat to the life of crew and passengers and to the safety and security of navigation in general. After the decrease in the number of piracy attacks we have recorded in late 2011, the number of attacks in the Indian Ocean has increased again in January/February 2012. Increasing incidents in West Africa also give reason to worry.

The threat piracy is posing is of great concern to the European Union. Maritime transport carries 80% of world trade. More than 40% of the world's merchant fleet is controlled by companies from the EU Member States. It causes disruption to trade and fishing and seafarers pay too high a price in human suffering.

The European Commission and European Member States fully support the initiatives taken by the International Maritime Organization to fight piracy and armed robbery at sea. Defeating piracy is a long term project in conjunction with partner Governments and industry. The EU is fully involved in the necessary stability, institution building and development partnership programmes in the wider region. I fully support the work on drying out the financial circuits surrounding piracy and organised crime.

In the short term, prevention, deterrence and repression of piracy are indispensable in order to be able to contain the problem. The European Commission supports EUNAVFOR Somalia Operation ATALANTA, active since December 2008 and recently extended. With IMO and the maritime industry, the EU developed Best Management Practices [BMP], which offer practical advice on how to minimise the risk for ships of attack by pirates.

The Commission now monitors the implementation of the BMP on EU Member States flagged ships, in accordance with our maritime security legislation. By sending weekly "polite reminders" to those Member States whose ships are found to be not compliant with BMP, the rate of "non-compliance" has fallen dramatically.

We witness an extension of the sea area where Somali pirates operate, and with it a serious difficulty for the scarce naval resources available to protect this shipping lane; hence, the importance of employing military Vessel Protection Detachments [VPDs].

But we also, increasingly, find Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel [PCASP] on board ships crossing the High Risk Area off the coasts of Somalia. In my view, the use of such private armed protection is among the most pressing items for discussion. We can not shy away from taking this issue up – complex as it may be and worried as we may be about the risks of spiralling violence. I see clear advantage of, and indeed, need for a common international regulation.

Self-regulation is not a real option in this field, considering the legal and operational risks connected with the carriage of arms on board and possible use of force. Enforcing a common international approach and limiting dangerous “grey zones” will help contain piracy while reducing risks for seafarers, companies and states concerned. It will be welcome by the serious players in the private maritime security industry, who today struggle to uphold safety and operational standards. Regulation will help establishing trusted communication lines between private security and military forces in the area.

In May the 90th Session of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee [MSC] will be held in London and it will be the opportunity to develop and fine-tune tools to enhance maritime safety and security. I believe this can be done by reducing, as much as possible, regulatory gaps which can have severe effects on seafarers, shipping and world trade: Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel and Private Maritime Security Companies should be regulated by mandatory instruments. We stand certainly ready to support the international community in this joint effort.

My special thanks and encouragement in his work go to IMO secretary general Koji Sekimizu, as well as to my colleague, minister Sohn from Denmark, with whom we are jointly hosting this seminar.

I wish us all fruitful exchanges during these two days; constructive, testing ideas and identifying which next steps we will take.

Thank you.


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