Report of the Secretary-General on the situation with respect to piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia (S/2016/843)

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I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to paragraph 33 of Security Council resolution 2246 (2015), in which the Council requested me to report on the implementation of that resolution and on the situation with respect to piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia.

2. The present report covers major developments since my previous report of 12 October 2015 (S/2015/776) through 30 September 2016. The assessment and observations herein are based on information provided by Member States and regional organizations, in conformity with paragraph 32 of Security Council resolution 2246 (2015). Information was provided by Italy, Latvia, Madagascar, Oman, Sri Lanka, Sweden and Turkey, as well as by the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The United Nations system, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea were also consulted.

II. Main developments and trends regarding piracy off the coast of Somalia

3. More than three years have passed since Somali pirates successfully hijacked and held a large commercial vessel for ransom. As at August 2016, no seafarers from large commercial vessels were being held hostage by Somali pirates. Those developments reflect the trend of an overall decline in piracy off the coast of Somalia. Some significant challenges remain, however. Pirate activity has increasingly shifted to the hijacking for ransom of dhows and foreign fishing vessels. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has reported that the number of smaller vessel seafarers currently in captivity stands at 39, comprising 26 hostages from the Naham 3 (Oman), 10 remaining hostages from the Siraj (Iran (Islamic Republic of)) and 3 hostages from the Abdi Khan (Yemen). Pirate gangs are believed to be holding other hostages for ransom, including five Kenyans. During the reporting period, the total number of incidents caused by Somalia-based pirates, as reported to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), increased slightly to 15, from 12 in 2014, but was still radically reduced from the peak of 237 pirate attacks in 2011.

4. Progress in building a federal state in Somalia, combined with collective international naval efforts and anti-piracy policies from the regional states, such as Puntland, has contributed to the reduction of onshore safe havens for pirates along the Somali coast. The results of a recent survey undertaken by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Oceans Beyond Piracy indicated that territories considered safe havens for pirates have shrunk from significant swathes of the 3,333km-long coastline of Somalia to a roughly 150km-long stretch between Xarardheere and Garacad. Most international ships have deterred pirate attacks through situational awareness and assertive responses in accordance with IMO guidance and its Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia-based Piracy. It is clear that the combined presence of naval warships, the implementation of the Best Management Practices, the presence of armed guards on ships and the prosecution and detention modalities supported through the Trust Fund to Support Initiatives of States Countering Piracy off the Coast of Somalia are succeeding as a deterrent against attacks on large commercial vessels. Pirate activity against such vessels has been effectively suppressed.

5. Although significant, such progress remains fragile and reversible. Credible reports indicate that Somali pirates possess the intent and capability to resume attacks against large commercial ships, should the opportunity present itself, and to endanger smaller vessels, which remain particularly vulnerable. There have been reports of pirate groups being organized and equipped in Mudug and in the area in the Horn of Africa east of Boosaasoin Puntland. The uncertain political situation in the central region of Somalia, coupled with the finite mandate of the international naval force stationed off the coast, has the potential to become a security vacuum that could trigger a resurgence of piracy.

6. The complex linkage between piracy and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing continues to be of concern. The rise in the number of seafarers held by pirates in 2015 is largely attributable to hijackings of small fishing vessels. Many local communities view ransom payments for hostages as compensation for what they perceive as fishing revenue lost through illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by such vessels, and, to that extent, the perception and the reality of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities can be a driver for piracy.

7. The Somali Maritime Resource and Security Strategy of 2013 has enabled Somali leaders to begin addressing maritime governance issues and to promote the establishment of a federal Somali fisheries authority so that fishing can be properly licensed and regulated, with revenues shared equally between the Federal Government and the regional states. That work is supported by FAO, UNODC and the Secure Fisheries programme of Oceans Beyond Piracy, among others. Somalia still lacks the abilities to patrol its own waters and carry out basic fisheries protection measures. Those areas still require significant support from the international community.

8. The drivers that have triggered piracy remain unchanged since 2005. The lack of economic opportunity has been identified by the Federal Government and international partners as the principal driver of pirate recruitment. It is notable that the criminal networks behind piracy remain undefeated, with kingpins such as Mohamed Osman Mohamed still at large, according to recent Oceans Beyond Piracy research. There is widespread agreement that without changes to the underlying factors and networks, piracy could re-emerge.