As my US colleague mentioned earlier, two ships were attacked off the coast of Nigeria earlier this month. I want to echo her concern for the crew members who were kidnapped that day and call for their release. Those two ships were flagged to Malta and Liberia; their cargo came from Turkey, Greece and Nigeria and those eight crew members who we heard about earlier, came from Egypt, the Philippines and Turkey.
So on just one day, on the seas off West Africa, piracy struck at the people, the property and the prosperity of seven members of the United Nations. It should concern us all that there were around a hundred similar incidents in the Gulf of Guinea last year. It doesn’t take a mathematician to see that the damage done by these acts is not isolated to a far off place; far removed from this Council’s attention. These attacks strike at all our interests and therefore require each of our focus.
When the security of shipping and global trade is threatened in this way, the prosperity and stability of the regional states of West and Central Africa is threatened, as well as the security of its people. This threat can, and must, be tackled together, through regional leadership and coordinated international support.
The United Kingdom commends the efforts being played by the region so far. We fully support the Yaoundé Code of Conduct. We welcome the commitment show by the Economic Community of West African States, the Economic Community of Central African States as well as the Gulf of Guinea Commission and their members.
This commitment is seen through their efforts to develop a regional framework to counter piracy and armed robbery at sea. Such a framework will allow the sharing of information and coordination of operations needed to really make a difference on the seas in the Gulf.
But a framework is just the start. We urge these bodies and their members to continue their efforts to establish and fully operationalise the regional network of maritime co-ordination centres. These include the Inter Regional Co-ordination Centre in Yaounde, the Regional Centre for Maritime Safety in Central Africa in Pointe Noire and the Regional Centre for Maritime Safety in West Africa in Abidjan.
The United Kingdom is also playing its part. Our resources and our diplomatic effort are coordinated carefully with the Gulf of Guinea region, the maritime industry, the European Union and other partners to tackle this threat. We’re an active member of the G7++ Gulf of Guinea Group, which is meeting again soon. This is a valuable forum for experts from regional states and donor countries to coordinate on this issue and deploy our resources. We look forward to the next meeting under Portuguese chairmanship.
But we recognise that coordination alone won’t solve this problem. That’s why the United Kingdom is making concerted efforts to assist in building maritime capacity across the region. We are helping mentor maritime police and Navy units in Ghana and Sao Tome and Principe. We are building port facilities in Sierra Leone to provide a platform for maritime law enforcement operations. We’ve enhanced the capacity of the region through our contributions to the International Maritime Organisation’s West and Central Africa Maritime Security Trust Fund.
Improving regional coordination, building maritime capacity to stop the pirates; these are the first steps of the process. What comes next is just as important; investigations and prosecutions. Knowing that there are long term consequences to choosing a life of piracy is the best way to deter those who might follow this path. That’s why we support the bolstering of the rule of law capacity in regional states. And it’s why we are currently considering further ways to develop the region’s ability to prosecute those involved in maritime crime.
Through these steps and more, we know we can make a difference. Hijackings for cargo are falling. But the battle is not yet won. The first quarter of this year has seen a marked increase in the number of kidnaps for ransom. So let me close, by returning to those two ships attacked earlier this month; the tanker, Puli and the container ship, Turquoise. Together they lost eight crewmen in those attacks. They are still missing, their families and friends still fearful for their safety. As we debate today how best to tackle this problem, we should do so with all those sailors in our minds.