The second conference on combatting the illegal smuggling of Somalian charcoal was held at the Combined Maritime Forces headquarters in Bahrain on 19 Nov 18, by the Commander of Combined Taskforce 152.With the majority of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries being present, the aim of the conference was to identify potential methods to disrupt the illicit trade in charcoal and to discuss the seizing of dhows that carry the illicit charcoal from Somalia.
A charcoal stockpile in northern Somalia.
It is estimated that terrorist organisations such as Al-Shabaab, based in Somalia, earn in the region of US $7.5 million per year by taxing and smuggling 3.5 million bags of charcoal, which is often marketed as legitimate to buyers in GCC countries. The estimated wholesale value of illicit smuggled Somalia charcoal is US$ 150 million per year.
A bag of smuggled charcoal.
A further impact of the scale of charcoal smuggling is the estimate that will be no trees left in Somalia by the year 2060: 1.5 million acacia trees are felled annually, equivalent to one every 30 seconds. This will leave the country prone to drought, famine and flooding leading to both an environmental and humanitarian disaster.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) placed a total ban on the export of charcoal from Somalia in 2012. In 2014, the UNSC gave authorisation for Member States to inspect vessels suspected to be carrying charcoal from Somalia in violation of the ban, to seize and dispose of the illicit cargo and to divert the vessels to a port for such disposal; this resolution was renewed earlier this month. There are multiple nuances in enforcing any UNSCR, and for charcoal this includes considerations such as safe disposal, avoiding environmental damage and the jurisdictional challenges of achieving legal finish.
Attendees at the conference agreed that CMF and attendant nations would forge stronger links and work more closely with the United Nations Panel of Experts on Somalia, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and within the GCC Naval Operations Centres (NOCs) and Maritime Security Centres in order to facilitate information sharing and training.
Captain Saleh Alfodary KCG, Commander CTF 152 said: “This conference is a starting point for further discussion and relationship building in our effort to counter this source of terrorist financing; it is our shared interest to achieve the CTF 152 mission: a safe and prosperous Gulf.”
Capt Alfodary delivers his opening address to the conference.