Over 100 delegates from nations, international organisations and members of the shipping industry who share a common interest in combating Somali-based piracy attended the 45th Shared Awareness and De-confliction (SHADE) conference in the Kingdom of Bahrain on 19 and 20 November 2019.

SHADE provides a forum in which to understand the challenges and opportunities involved in conducting counter-piracy operations throughout the waters off the coast of the Horn of Africa and in maintaining law and order on the high seas. The conference was organised by Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and co-chaired with the European Naval Force (Somalia) (EU NAVFOR).

20191120_Group photo
Delegates at the 45th SHADE Conference in Bahrain, 20 November 2019.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to host the 45th iteration of this conference and participate in SHADE for a second time this year,” said Vice Adm. James Malloy, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. “I’m glad to see so many different nations and organisations represented here today. I would like to especially acknowledge the EUNAVFOR delegates who play an outsized role in partnering with CMF, both in suppressing piracy and as biannual co-hosts of this important conference”.

“Threats like piracy are never successfully addressed in a vacuum. Governments, militaries, and industries must cooperate and demonstrate resolve in order to ensure the free flow of commerce and freedom of navigation through key waterways”.

20191120_V Adm Malloy
Vice Adm. James Malloy, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.

Keynote speeches and working groups provided an opportunity for military and industry partners involved in the on-going effort to suppress piracy to share information and work collaboratively to de-conflict their operations and activities.

Speakers at the 45th SHADE Conference included Jakob Larsen, Head of Maritime Security at BIMCO, the world’s largest international shipping association, and John Steed MBE, an expert in maritime crime, conflict resolution, negotiation and African geopolitics from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Jakob Larsen gave a shipping industry perspective on piracy in the region, recognising that although it has been contained, it is not solved. He said “Industry and military partners must continue to work together, with industry using UKMTO as the bridge into military organisations including CMF, EUNAVFOR and other regional maritime information centres”.

John Steed MBE provided an update on the maritime crime climate in Somalia, focusing on human and, in particular, organ trafficking; the smuggling of weapons, drugs, sugar and charcoal; and piracy network links to Al Shabaab and ISIL. Mr Steed also spoke about the regional organisations with a mandate to tackle crime in the region, the number of hostages taken by Somali piracy networks awaiting release, and the new threat emerging from the movement of components used in IED construction.

20191120_John Steed_UNODC
John Steed MBE, from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

CMF has conducted counter-piracy operations since 2009 and EUNAVFOR from December 2008. Successes by these and other organisations in combating piracy, including the maritime industry applying Best Management Practices, have led to a reduction in incidents over recent years. However, the threat continues and the need for all maritime agencies to work closely and remain vigilant is essential to retaining freedom of navigation for legitimate seafarers.

Captain Luis Diaz Puente highlighted EUNAVFOR’s successful disruption of a piracy attack on a dhow by ESPS NAVARRA and German and Spanish maritime patrol aircraft in April 2019, which resulted in the detention of five individuals, as well as EUNAVFOR’s use of focused operations to understand the situation in Somalia through engaging local communities and meeting stakeholders at sea and ashore.

Captain Micah Maxwell USN, CMF’s Chief of Staff, said CMF remains on track to exceed the amount of hashish seized in 2018. Since the last SHADE in April 2019, CMF vessels have seized drugs with a regional wholesale value of $23m, taking the total this year to date to $46m.

Delegates also heard from Cdr Ben Keith RN, Head of Operations in the recently launched International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC).

The IMSC was established to deter state-sponsored malign activity, promote maritime security and stability, and ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waters throughout the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Oman. Its mission is different to that of CMF, whose mandate is to tackle non-state actors engaged in activities such as terrorism, piracy and the illegal drugs trade.

Cdr Keith said, “A disruption of seaborne trade in the Middle East will send ripples throughout the world economy. The IMSC is committed to ensuring legitimate mariners have unrestricted use of international waterways. We will maintain a persistent presence and vigilance through over watch of critical choke points, patrols between them and airborne surveillance to monitor the flow of traffic through the highest risk areas”.

“Our headquarters in Bahrain is maintaining contact with the merchant vessel community and partner nations through regular maritime VHF safety calls, and by sharing of Maritime Domain Awareness information. Forums such as SHADE provide vital opportunities to broaden our network of contacts to ensure we work collaboratively to support regional stability and keep merchant shipping flowing”.

Delegates at the 45th SHADE Conference in Bahrain, 20 November 2019.

Closing the conference, Deputy Commander Combined Maritime Forces, Commodore Dean Bassett RN, said: “Thank you all for your attendance and active contribution over the last two days, particularly our colleagues from industry, partners from other organisations, the independent deployers and our co-hosts EUNAVFOR”.

“It is clear that the key to our continued success in countering Somali-based piracy lies in our multi-national, multi-organisational approach. The importance of expanding our information sharing efforts, regional capacity building, wider coordination and the close working relationship between CMF and EUNAVFOR will guarantee better management of assets at sea to improve maritime security in this region’s vital waterways. I look forward to seeing you at the next conference in April 2020”.

The 46th SHADE is planned for 21-22 April 2020. Any government official, law enforcement officer, military delegate or organisation official involved in operations to counter piracy may attend.