Representatives from around the world have come together in Bahrain to discuss the ongoing fight to counter the piracy threat to shipping posed by criminal gangs from Somalia.
The European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) chaired the 33rd Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) meeting in Bahrain on 10 September 2014. The meeting, hosted on a rotational basis by the EUNAVFOR, NATO and the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), included 103 representatives from 32 nations from around the world. Colonel Steve Hussey MBE from the United Kingdom’s Royal Marines, Chief of Staff at EUNAVFOR, chaired the SHADE conference.
SHADE provides an international forum for frank and open discussions about ongoing counter-piracy operations in the Southern Red Sea, Bab El-Mandeb strait, the Gulf of Aden, the Somali Basin and the sea lanes around the Horn of Africa. The day comprised a series of meetings between representatives from many organisation, both civilian and military, and offered an opportunity for the delegates to listen to keynote speakers who provided a broader understanding of the wider issues surrounding piracy in the region.
The conference included a joint analysis of recent trends which show that piracy-related incidents have reduced substantially since CMF, EUNAVFOR, NATO and other regional powers began counter-piracy operations in the region in 2008. Colonel Hussey took the opportunity to recognise the contribution made by nations deploying units to the region independently.
Mr John Steed MBE, a retired British Army officer, spoke on behalf of his organisation, Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP), a private company with a non-governmental organisation (NGO) role. Mr Steed explained the dual role of OBP, which seeks to support the establishment of infrastructure in Somalia so that Somalis can be gainfully employed as an alternative to piracy, as well as working on behalf of those hostages still held by criminals to try to secure their release.
He said: “It is a testament to the international counter-piracy effort that the number of piracy-related incidents has reduced so much, but there are still 37 hostages held by criminals in Somalia. That’s 37 people living in horrific conditions and 37 families suffering the loss of loved ones. The hostage support programme works on behalf of those people to bring an end to the situation as swiftly as possible.”
Ms. Judith Thimke, Chief of the World Food Programme’s Ocean Transportation Service, thanked all the organisations involved in the counter-piracy operation for escorting food shipments through potentially dangerous waters.
She said: “The forces from CMF, EUNAVFOR and NATO, as well as other navies working in the region, have helped us to be there on time to assist the Somali population. You cannot afford a break in the pipeline when a three year old girl needs the kind of special nutritious foods WFP delivers. So, thank you to all of you.”
The SHADE conference allows nations and organisations who would not normally coordinate their naval operations to meet on a regular basis and plan how best to combat piracy.
Captain William Nault US Navy, Chief of Staff at CMF headquarters in Bahrain, said:
“SHADE works because we get together with a common purpose. Although we can keep the lid on piracy at sea, this problem will be solved ashore. We have been privileged today to hear from our keynote speakers. It will be organisations like the World Food Programme, who bring hope to starving people in Somalia, and Oceans Beyond Piracy, who support the building of infrastructure in the country, that will encourage the pirates to give up their lives of crime and pursue a life within the confines of the law.”
Commodore Tony Millar, MNZM, Royal New Zealand Navy, the commander of CMF’s counter-piracy task group, CTF-151, said:
“SHADE, to my mind, amply demonstrates the concern that a wide variety of stakeholders have with piracy in the Horn of Africa region. There is a large community of shared interests here, and we are determined to combine our resources to defeat piracy on the high seas. CMF’s mission is a noble one – and we will continue to work as hard as we can to ensure the merchant ships are able to pass through these waters unencumbered for the benefit of all.”