Policy

Preventing and reducing piracy off the coast of Somalia

Issue

Since 2008 there has been a high number of attacks by pirates off the coast of Somalia on ships transiting the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. Armed gangs have been hijacking vessels and demanding ransoms for the release of both vessels and crew. These attacks affect the peace and security of the region.

In response, the UK is playing a lead role in international operations aimed at stopping the pirates, and providing humanitarian and development assistance to Somalia.

Actions

In order to ensure pirates (and the proceeds from piracy) are stopped, and that the shipping and travel industry can conduct its business as safely as possible, the UK is:

  • supporting counter-piracy missions - NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield, the EU’s NAVFOR Operation ATALANTA and the Combined Task Force 151 in the Horn of Africa region, and supports the UK Maritime Trade Operation (run by the Royal Navy and based in the British Embassy in Dubai) - and provide humanitarian and development assistance to Somalia to counteract the root causes of piracy
  • supporting countries in the region to let seized pirates be prosecuted regionally - the UK has agreements in place with the Seychelles, Mauritius and Tanzania
  • supporting Somalia in reducing poverty and to enhance stabilisation, peace building and reconciliation at national, regional and local levels. This supports our counter-piracy and counter-terrorism objectives by helping, over the longer term, to bring down the causes of piracy and terrorism and to prevent their continuation. The Department for International Development’s (DFID’s) 4-year £250 million Somalia programme will play a crucial role in achieving this outcome
  • supporting the shipping industry advice on self-protection measures on how to avoid, deter and delay pirate attacks, and through government guidelines on the use of armed guards
  • providing advice to travellers in the region so you ‘know before you go’ and can be aware of any risks in the area
  • supporting the recognition of Somalia’s Exclusive Economic Zone, which will help protect its natural maritime resources up to 200 nautical miles from its coastal baselines
  • leading efforts to undermine the piracy business model, including through the opening of a Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecution and Intelligence Co-ordination Centre (RAPPICC) in the Seychelles. The RAPPICC’s remit is to target the leaders, financiers and enablers of piracy by building evidence packages for use in their prosecutions
  • the Piracy Ransoms Task Force was established by David Cameron in February 2012 for threatened countries to work together to reduce the threat of piracy and ransom payments

Background

The UK continues to work with the international community to provide humanitarian and development assistance. This helps to tackle the underlying causes of piracy: long term instability and lack of development in the Somali region.

The UK is working with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Maritime Organization to develop sustainable livelihoods in coastal communities, which complements DFID’s programme of building long-term and sustainable jobs and economic opportunities in Somalia.

One example of such work is the Sustainable Employment and Economic Development Programme, a joint project with UNDP Somalia. The programme is aimed at working to improve the livelihoods of various stakeholders in the fisheries sector in Puntland. It will result in improved regulation and development through public-private partnerships, with the aim to create 20,000 long-term jobs.

The UK has lead responsibility in the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia for working group one, whose focus is on regional capacity development and military engagement.

Legislation

Naval operations to counter piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia operate under the authority of the UN Security Council. Since 2008, the Security Council has passed a number of resolutions authorising military operations, the most recent of which is the UN Security Council Resolution 2077 (2012).

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) defines the act of piracy and provides the basis for the prosecution of piracy and maritime crime offences.

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