Report of the Secretary-General on the situation with respect to piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia (S/2018/903)

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I. Introduction

  1. The present report is submitted pursuant to paragraph 33 of Security Council resolution 2383 (2017), in which the Council requested me to provide an annual report on the situation with respect to piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia.

  2. Following my previous annual report on the situation (S/2017/859), the present report covers major developments from 1 October 2017 to 30 September 2018. It is based on information provided by the United Nations system, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), as well as Member States and regional organizations, including the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the European Union, the European Union Nava l Force (EU NAVFOR) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

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

Major developments and trends during the reporting period

  1. During the reporting period, significant efforts to minimize acts of Somali piracy continued, thanks to the combined achievements of the international community through the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia; the ongoing contributions of individual Member States (see annex I); the continued enforcement measures of international naval forces; and the work of UNSOM, together with several United Nations and non - United Nations agencies, to foster governance and the rule of law in Somalia. Those measures, along wit h the observance of Best Management Practices b y all vessels, have sustained efforts to reduce the number of piracy incidents overall (see annex II). Piracy activities that have occurred since my previous report continue to point to root causes that still need to be fully addressed.

  2. During the period, five significant piracy incidents occurred in the regional waters around the Somali coastline, in the Somali Basin and the Gulf of Aden, involving the Sameer (24 October), the Ever Dynamic (15 November), the Galerna III (16 November), the Leopard Sun (22 February) and the Kriti Spirit (31 March). No ships were successfully hijacked for ransom nor were any hostages taken. The maritime incident involving the Alpha Kirawira (22 July) was assessed as an Al-Shabaab event rather than piracy, demonstrating the fluid nature of the maritime security space in Somalia.

  3. In November 2017, attempts to attack the Ever Dynamic and the Galerna III failed after exchanges of gunfire with the privately contracted armed security personnel on board. On 18 November, the Italian navy dispatched a SH - 90 helicopter from its vessel, the Virginio Fasan, that located the pirate action group responsible. That led to the capture of six suspects, who were directly transferred to the Regional Fusion and Law Enforcement Centre for Safety and Security at Sea (Seychelles Piracy Prosecutions Centre) to await trial.

  4. The continued piracy attempts demonstrate that the underlying conditions fuelling piracy have not yet changed and that piracy networks are still very much active. Four pirate action groups remain ready to resume attacks should the opportunity present itself. Those groups remain opportunistic, given the relative ease with which operatives may source weapons and skiffs. In 2017, several attempts on vessels occurred during the normally quiet monsoon season. In 2018, the high - risk area was extended further afield, pointing to the capability and intent of pirates to project attacks as far across the Indian Ocean as possible to ensure a successful hijacking. Recent incidents have been notable in that the attackers were not dissuaded by the failure of their first attempt, who soon afterwards carried out a second attempt in the same vicinity, demonstrating their determination and commitment to achieving their objectives.

  5. In several of the incidents, the pirates came very close to successfully hijacking the ships. Those attempts serve as a reminder that piracy h as been suppressed but not eradicated. The lack of success in 2018 highlights the fact that the measures put in place by industry remain fit for purpose, but only if they are fully employed. All ships are strongly encouraged to adhere to the fifth version of Best Management Practices , released June 2018, and maintain a high speed while transiting through the high - risk area. It is likely that the criminal networks behind piracy will continue to seek opportunistic targets. Flag States need to continue to monitor the threat to ships flying their flag and set appropriate security levels in accordance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security C ode. In addition, the presence of privately contracted armed security personnel and international naval forces in the region are critical to deterrence.

  6. In its report entitled “ The state of maritime piracy 2017: assessing the economic and human cost ”,
    Oceans Beyond Piracy n oted that a total of 54 incidents occurred in the western Indian Ocean region in 2017. This indicates an increase of 100 per cent over 2016. The number of seafarers affected by incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea also rose, from 545 in 2016 to 1,102 in 2017. With an economic cost of $ 1.4 billion attributed to piracy in the East Africa maritime region, piracy also results in higher insurance premiums for all merchant ships transiting off the coast of Somalia, with additional premiums, including war risk area premiums ($41.6 million); kidnap and ransom premiums ($9.0 million), and higher cargo insurance premiums (no estimated cost available), which may be passed on to consumers. For 2018, spillover effects from the conflict in Yemen increased the number of incidents occurring off the coast of Yemen, affecting the major shipping lanes located between Yemen and Somalia.

  7. In its report entitled “ Stable seas: Somali waters ”, issued in 2017, the One Earth Future Foundation noted the increasing complexity of the region, with multifaceted and cross - over issues, including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, coastal violence and human trafficking, intersecting to create a uniquely insecure maritime environment in Somali waters. Regional conflicts have shifted human migration flows, further accelerating the smuggling of both trafficked persons and arms across the Gulf of Aden. It was observed in the report that poverty, a lack of jobs, a lack of markets and poor management of fisheries were factors that had contributed to the re - emergence of Somali piracy in 2017. In addition, piracy t ends to exacerbate underlying tensions, foster political instability and erode national security while degrading legitimate economic opportunities — in a country already struggling with corruption and terrorism. Poor governance and weak economic conditions in Somalia have also contributed to the emergence of violent non - State actors like Al-Shabaab and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which have further undermined political stability and economic recovery systems in the Horn of Africa. Maritime insecurity enriches those non - State actors, which creates and sustains a cycle that further weakens governance on shore.

  8. In their industry releasable threat assessment dated 1 September 2018, the Combined Maritime Forces and EU NAVFOR concluded that piracy networks seemed to be meeting their financial objectives by pursuing lower - risk activities such as the smuggling of people, narcotics, weapons and charcoal. It also noted that, with respect to other significant maritime incidents in the Maritime Security Transit Corridor - Red Sea area, there were four attempted attacks that were attributed to Houthi rebels launching long - range rockets on Saudi - flagged ships off the coast of Yemen, which may pose an even greater threat to the region ’ s stability. Fishing vessels and yachts travelling too close to the Somali or Yemeni coastlines may be caught up in attempted attacks by Somali pirates or Houthi rebels on commercial vessels.

  9. The array of threats in the region makes clear the need for a comprehensive maritime security approach, and a key priority for the international community is to secure Somalia ’ s maritime sovereignty and suppress piracy and other threats emanating from Somalia. The long - term solution for countering piracy lies in creating a secure maritime region off the coast of Somalia — from “ Somaliland ”, around the Horn of Africa and down to the border with Kenya. However, efforts to that end are often hindered by political indecision within the Federal Government of Somalia, lack of funding for Somali maritime security, lack of access to key parts of the Somali coast, and the need for a whole - of - security approach that addresses maritime threats as a concomitant part of land - based security concerns. As long as those external and internal conditions remain , so will the risk of further acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia.