The 31st counter piracy Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) conference was held in Manama, Bahrain, on 11 March.
Established in 2008 and held quarterly, the conference aims to coordinate and de-conflict activities between the countries, naval partnerships and industry organisations involved in counter piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, Horn of Africa and western Indian Ocean.
The conference was chaired by NATO in conjunction with the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR), and provided a forum for states, navies and industry members involved in regional counter piracy operations to share information, ideas and to coordinate efforts to ensure all are working towards shared goals.
The international gathering of nearly 90 delegates included representatives from 33 countries including military, law enforcement agencies, the shipping industry and other government officers.
Briefings at the conference included a piracy activity update, a shipping industry representative’s update and a combined CMF-NATO-EU NAVFOR antipiracy brief.
The conference was preceded by a day of working groups which discussed topics such as logistical support to counter piracy efforts, convoy transits through the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) in the Gulf of Aden and analysis of piracy trend statistics. The findings of these working groups were presented during SHADE’s afternoon session.
A key conference theme was that whilst there had been a huge improvement in the piracy situation, with no successful attacks since May 2012, there is no room for complacency.
Commander Wee Kwong Lim, Republic of Singapore Navy, Acting Director of Operations at CMF, said: “Piracy is suppressed but not yet eliminated so we must continue this good work and not let our guard down. As a platform for stakeholders from the military and maritime industry to discuss how to work together against piracy, SHADE achieves a mutual understanding and a comprehensive approach.”
John Stawpert, International Chamber of Shipping representative, said: “We see pirates have the capacity to attack using the same methods as they have done historically. There’s been a statistical drop but the threat remains the same, it remains a high-stake game.
“SHADE is the nexus between the shipping industry and the military. We get information about the threat, trends and pirate behaviours. It is a great meeting of minds and positive changes in coordination, for example convoy coordination, have been a great step forward and a direct result of this forum.”
Captain Peter Olive, Royal Navy, Chief of Staff to EU NAVFOR, said: “SHADE is important because with levels of success in piracy at an historic low, the temptation to start reducing commitment to counter piracy efforts is there. That would be a mistake because nothing has fundamentally changed in the coastal regions from which pirates emanate.
“The regular drumbeat of SHADE maintains the focus on this problem and also allows us to address the practical problems of coordination at sea. It is therefore a vital undertaking for all military partners in the fight against Somali piracy.”
Captain Sebahattin Coruk, Turkish Navy, Assistant Chief of Staff for NATO Naval Operations, said: “SHADE is an opportunity to get different players – NATO, EU, CMF, independent deployers and industry – together to exchange information and share experiences relating to counter piracy operations. It is a chance to de-conflict activities and find solutions to problems.”