Report of the Secretary-General on the situation with respect to piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia (S/2019/867)

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I. Introduction

  1. The present report is submitted pursuant to paragraph 33 of Security Council resolution 2442 (2018), in which the Council requested me to report within 12 months on the implementation of the resolution and on the situation with respect to piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia.

  2. The report covers the period from 1 October 2018 to 31 October 2019 and highlights major developments since my previous report (S/2018/903). It is based on information provided by the United Nations system, including the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), as well as Member States and regional organizations, including the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Indian Ocean Commission and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

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

  1. During the reporting period, efforts to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia continued, thanks to the concerted engagement of the international community, including the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia; the ongoing contributions of individual Member States (see annex I); international naval forces; and the work of the Federal Government of Somalia, with support from UNSOM and partners to strengthen governance and the rule of law within Somalia.

  2. During the reporting period, no ships were successfully hijacked for ransom. Two significant piracy incidents, and a few instances of suspicious activity, occurred in the regional waters around the Somali coastline, in the Somali Basin (see annex II).

  3. On 16 October 2018, there was an attempt to board the bulk carrier Sydney approximately 340 nautical miles east of Mogadishu. The attack was repulsed by warning shots from the privately contracted armed security personnel on board. Following the attack, EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation Atalanta ordered the Spanish maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft Cisne to the area for further investigation of suspected pirate activity. On 28 October 2018, a team from the EU NAVFOR Somalia flagship Castilla disrupted an active pirate action group whaler used to facilitate the attack.

  4. On 21 April 2019, the fishing vessels Adria and Txori Argi were attacked 280 nautical miles off the central coast of Somalia. The attack was repelled following an exchange of fire between the suspected pirates and privately contracted armed security personnel on board. The suspected pirates had allegedly seized a Yemeni fishing dhow off the central coast of Somalia prior to the attacks, with 25 Yemeni and Somali crew members on board. On 23 April 2019, the EU NAVFOR Somalia flagship Navarra seized the Yemeni fishing dhow, Al Ahzam, off the central Somali coast, apprehended five suspected pirates and released the 25 crew members held as hostages. On 26 April, the five suspected pirates were transferred to the Seychelles authorities for prosecution. EU NAVFOR headquarters piloted the operation under the command of the operational headquarters in Rota, Spain, three weeks after the operation handover from Northwood, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. With the support of various EU NAVFOR active assets in the region, including the German Jester and Spanish Cisne maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, EU NAVFOR Somalia was able to control the situation and prevent any further imminent attacks.

  5. Due to the quick intervention by international naval forces and the use of privately contracted armed security personnel, the pirates were therefore unable to successfully hijack the ships. In spite of the overall decrease in piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia in recent years, the attempts remind us that piracy has been reduced but not eradicated and remains a dangerous threat to the region.

  6. The industry releasable threat assessment of 1 September 2019 indicated that criminal groups previously involved in piracy seemed to be continuing to meet their financial objectives by pursuing lower-risk criminal activities, such as the smuggling of people, narcotics, weapons or charcoal. However, they had the intent and capability to conduct pirate attacks should the opportunity arise. Just one successful seizure, leading to ransom, could encourage financiers in Somalia to reinvest in piracy action. It also indicated that the continued presence of international naval forces, such as the Combined Maritime Forces and EU NAVFOR Somalia, together with the measures in the fifth version of Best Management Practices, continued to constitute the most effective forms of deterrence and defence against piracy in the region. With regard to the southern Red Sea, no attacks had been conducted against shipping in the area during the reporting period. The threat related to such attacks was likely to remain at a low level as long as the Stockholm Agreement held.

  7. In response to the decreased threat of piracy, the Round Table of international shipping associations and the Oil Companies International Marine Forum decided to update the geographical boundaries of the high-risk area and reduce its size as of 1 May 2019. The Round Table reiterated that flag States must continue to monitor the threat to ships flying their flag, set appropriate security levels in accordance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code and ensure that all incidents were reported accurately and in a timely manner to authorities.

  8. At its 100th session, held from 3 to 7 December 2018, the IMO Maritime Safety Committee noted that the shipping industry had comprehensively reviewed and updated its guidance on piracy and armed robbery, which had resulted in the development of the fifth version of Best Management Practices and other guidance. The Committee also noted that the new and revised guidance reflected the developments in piracy and maritime security since the publication of the fourth version of Best Management Practices, including the development of further regional guidance, changes in pirate modus operandi and the establishment of new regional reporting mechanisms. The Committee approved the revised Best Management Practices, which was publicly available and was intended to assist companies and seafarers in further mitigating maritime security threats, as well as helping to increase the security of world trade.

  9. The Committee invited member Governments to take note of the revised Best Management Practices, along with other revised guidance, and to advise owners, operators and managers of ships entitled to fly their flag, as well as the shipboard personnel employed or engaged on such ships, to act accordingly. The revised guidance is intended to support existing IMO guidance, namely: Recommendations to Governments for preventing and suppressing piracy and armed robbery against ships (MSC.1/Circ.1333/Rev.1); Guidance to shipowners and ship operators, shipmasters and crews on preventing and suppressing acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships (MSC.1/Circ.1334); and Maritime Safety Committee resolution MSC.324(89) on the implementation of Best Management Practices guidance. International organizations were also invited to take note of the guidance and to advise their membership to act accordingly.