A high-level meeting of 17 States from the Western Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and Red Sea areas, convened by IMO in Djibouti to help address the problem of piracy and armed robbery against ships off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, has adopted a Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden (the Code of Conduct).
The meeting, which was opened on 26 January 2009 by IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos and the Prime Minister of Djibouti, H.E. Mr. Dileita Mohamed Dileita (see IMO Briefing 02/2009), was attended by Ministers, Ambassadors, senior officials and legal experts from Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Jordan, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, the United Republic of Tanzania and Yemen, as well as observers from other IMO Member States; United Nations specialized agencies and bodies; and international and regional inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations.
The Code of Conduct recognizes the extent of the problem of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the region and, in it, the signatories declare their intention to co operate to the fullest possible extent, and in a manner consistent with international law, in the repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships, with a view towards sharing and reporting relevant information through a system of national focal points and information centers; interdicting ships suspected of engaging in acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships; ensuring that persons committing or attempting to commit acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships are apprehended and prosecuted; and facilitating proper care, treatment, and repatriation for seafarers, fishermen, other shipboard personnel and passengers subject to acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships, particularly those who have been subjected to violence.
Participants intend to fully co-operate in the arrest, investigation and prosecution of persons who have committed piracy or are reasonably suspected of having committed piracy; seize suspect ships and the property on board such ships; and rescue ships, persons, and property subject to acts of piracy. These acts would be consistent with international law.
The Code of Conduct also covers the possibilities of shared operations, such as nominating law enforcement or other authorized officials to embark in the patrol ships or aircraft of another signatory.
The Code of Conduct further calls for the setting up of national focal points for piracy and armed robbery against ships and the sharing of information relating to incidents reported. The signatories intend to use piracy information exchange centers in Kenya, United Republic of Tanzania and Yemen, to be located, respectively, in the regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Mombassa, the Sub-Regional Coordination Centre in Dar es Salaam, and a regional maritime information centre, which is being established in Sana’a.
The meeting also recommended the establishment of a regional training centre within the purposes of the Code of Conduct and, by means of a resolution, accepted with appreciation the offer of Djibouti to host it.
Each signatory intends to review its national legislation with a view towards ensuring that there are laws in place to criminalize piracy and armed robbery against ships, and adequate guidelines for the exercise of jurisdiction, conduct of investigations, and prosecution of alleged offenders.
The Code of Conduct is open for signature by the 21 countries in the region, of which nine – namely, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Seychelles, Somalia, United Republic of Tanzania and Yemen – signed it during the closing ceremony in Djibouti. As a result, the Code of Conduct is effective as from 29 January 2009.
IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos applauded the adoption of the Code of Conduct, describing it as significant milestone. “The adoption of this instrument shows that countries in the region are willing to act concertedly and together, contributing to the ongoing efforts of the broader international community to fight the scourge of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the area. IMO stands ready to assist in the implementation of this regional agreement through its technical co-operation programme, and I would invite Governments and industry to respond positively to the request for in-kind or financial support.”
“Like the Regional Co-operation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia (RECAAP), which was concluded in November 2004 by 16 countries in Asia, I have every faith that the Code of Conduct will prove to be the starting point for successful co-operation and coordination in the region, which will bear fruit in the suppression of piracy and armed robbery against ships”, he added, stressing that, while the agreed contribution of the States in the region was hugely important, the long-term solution to the problem still lay onshore, within Somalia itself.
The Djibouti meeting invited Member States of IMO, and other international organizations concerned, including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the United Nations Political Office for Somalia, the World Food Programme, the African Union, the European Union and Commission, the League of Arab States, Interpol and the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre, representatives of naval forces including the Combined Maritime Force, European Union Naval Force and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as well as the maritime industry, to provide financial and in-kind support for technical assistance activities related to the effective implementation of the Code of Conduct.
The Djibouti meeting follows from earlier regional meetings, also convened by IMO, including the Sub regional seminar on piracy and armed robbery against ships and maritime security held in Sana’a, Yemen, in April 2005; the follow up Sub regional workshop on maritime security, piracy and armed robbery against ships held in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, in January 2006; and the Sub regional meeting on piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Western Indian Ocean, held in Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania, in April 2008.
The latter meeting, in particular, developed a draft regional memorandum of understanding on the subject that formed the basis of the Code of Conduct, which is also inspired by the ReCAAP, adopted in Tokyo, Japan on 11 November 2004, and the arrangements relating to its implementation, including its Information Sharing Centre, which has operated, and continues to operate, with great success in the Asian region.
The Djibouti meeting adopted four resolutions:
•Resolution 1 on Adoption of the Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden;
•Resolution 2 on Technical Co-operation;
•Resolution 3 on Enhancing Training in the Region, which accepts the offer of Djibouti to host a training centre; and
•Resolution 4 on Expressions of Appreciation.
The above-mentioned regional meetings leading up to the Djibouti event have been organized by IMO pursuant to IMO Assembly resolution A.1002 (25), on Piracy and armed robbery against ships in waters off the coast of Somalia, which, among other things, called upon Governments in the region to conclude, in co-operation with IMO, and implement, as soon as possible, a regional agreement to prevent, deter and suppress piracy and armed robbery against ships.
IMO’s initiative on the Somali issue goes back to 2005, when, in addition to the above-mentioned meeting held in Sana’a, Yemen, a resolution, adopted by the IMO Assembly (expressing the IMO’s concern at the situation and appealing to all parties, which might be able to assist, to take action to ensure that all acts or attempted acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships were terminated forthwith), was conveyed, through the United Nations Secretary-General, to the United Nations Security Council. This resulted, in March 2006, in a Security Council Presidential Statement recognizing, for the first time within the framework of the United Nations, the problems caused by piracy and armed robbery against ships off the coast of Somalia and encouraging “Member States of the United Nations, whose naval vessels and military aircraft operate in international waters and airspace adjacent to the coast of Somalia, to be vigilant to any incident of piracy therein and to take appropriate action to protect merchant shipping, in particular the transportation of humanitarian aid, against any such act, in line with relevant international law”.
Subsequently, in 2007, together with his counterpart at the World Food Programme (WFP), IMO Secretary-General Mitropoulos wrote to the Secretary-General of NATO proposing the formalization of a coordination mechanism between the three organizations (IMO, WFP and NATO), by means of which naval operational centers in the region were provided systematically with the details of merchant ships chartered to deliver humanitarian aid to Somalia on behalf of the UN System, so as to facilitate the task of naval assets operating in the region in undertaking the tracking and, where necessary, the provision of assistance to, merchant vessels carrying urgently-needed humanitarian aid.
In June 2007, the IMO Council endorsed a proposal from IMO Secretary-General Mitropoulos that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon be requested to bring the piracy situation off Somalia once again to the attention of the Security Council, specifically asking it to request the Transitional Federal Government – the TFG – of Somalia to consent to foreign naval vessels and military aircraft entering the country’s territorial sea to assist merchant ships under attack by pirates and armed robbers.