01 Apr 15, the 35th SHADE conference convened in Bahrain to discuss counter-piracy efforts. This unique gathering held quarterly allowed over 120 representatives from the commercial shipping industry sector, Military forces engaged in counter-piracy, Civilian and International representatives with a vested interest in the activities to prevent piracy activities to come together to discuss the latest developments in the fight against Somali based piracy.
The meeting is chaired on a rotational basis by one of the ‘Big Three’ military organisations involved in the coordination of counter-piracy military patrols in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Somali Basin, Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean. The Big three comprise of Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) who operate the Combined Task Force (CTF) 151; European Union Naval Forces (EUNAVFOR) who run Operation Atalanta; and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) who run the Ocean Shield mission.
Mr John Stawpert, Manager of the International Chamber of Shipping Ltd, addressed the audience to highlight the on-going success of the four main pillars of the current counter-piracy efforts which are the deployment of military units to patrol the vast maritime areas; the implementation of armed security teams on civilian shipping; the capacity building of regional counter piracy forces; and most importantly the continued support to and implementation of Best Management Practices 4, the publication designed for the international shipping community by the international shipping community to deliver advice and guidance for vessels intending to transit through areas at risk from piracy activity.
With a recent decline in piracy events, there is a perception that international support for counter-piracy is starting to wane. There have been no successful pirate attacks since May 2012 and there are factions within the shipping community that are showing some patterns of behaviour that are relaxing from the state of high alert. This has been highlighted by a drop in the number of units participating in organized convoys. The experts in attendance at the SHADE event were quick to suggest that if the funding for counter-piracy drops and units ignore the advice that has clearly had a positive impact on the decline of successful pirate activity, we will likely see a resurgence of the threat. It was added that the industry will be conducting a risk assessment of the current guidance over the summer taking into account information from a number of sources, including the SHADE threat assessment.
Mrs Veronique Roger-Lacan, the French Ambassador to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development and Special Representative for the Fight Against Maritime Piracy, gave an accurate insight into the root of the continued Somali piracy problem through her highlighting of the corruption that exists in the area. Mrs Roger-Lacan identified that it was necessary to prevent Somali pirate leaders from being able to operate with impunity and that this could only be achieved through international resolve at the government level. This might start simply with the issuing of International arrest warrants against known and prominent pirate leaders. She highlighted the pursuit conducted by a female Belgian prosecutor to ensure that one particular Somali Kingpin, involved in the pirating of a Belgian vessel, is not only brought to justice but will serve time in a Belgian prison.
The 35th meeting of SHADE brought significant updates and discussion about all areas of the counter-piracy mission and included working group discussions where the representatives were able to refresh understanding of the challenges and ensure that resources are used most effectively. These included the vast area in which piracy is known to operate; the requirement to better understand the practices of innocent fishermen and Dhow traders that ply the waters in the region in order to prevent identification mistakes; redefinition of attacks and suspicious events in order to better recognise and effectively report pirate events and to better understand the current threat of Somali piracy.
The 35th SHADE also recognised the international interest in the Somali based counter-piracy mission and the application of best management practices in order to advise mariners in other areas around the world affected by piracy. BMP4 remains the most effective guidance for International Shipping to help evade pirate attacks.
Captain William Nault United States Navy and SHADE Chairman concluded:
“The 35th SHADE showed once again the sustained commitment on the part of military forces and industry to maintaining close cooperation and coordination in the counter-piracy mission. All members engaged in lively discussion and debate and it is clear to me that the dedication to completely eliminating the threat of Somali piracy is as strong as ever.”