The shipping industry, which wants a crackdown on illegal fishing off Somalia because it is fuelling piracy, has been told that the EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) cannot help.
International shipping association BIMCO is now looking elsewhere for a solution to the problem .
The message that illegal fishing lay outside the remit of EU NAVFOR’s Operation Atalanta was conveyed by the force’s operation commander, Major General Martin Smith, at a private meeting with chief maritime security officers prior to a BIMCO security meeting in London this morning.
The industry claims illegal fishing off Somalia is both the source of maritime piracy in the area and a continuing aggravator of the situation. Unless it is stopped, it argues, the security risk to commercial shipping from Somalia-based pirates will continue.
Giles Noakes, chief maritime security officer for BIMCO, said illegal fishing- along with other criminal activities worldwide – continued to be an area that required sustained involvement from the shipping industry and “all stakeholders”.
Noakes told IHS Maritime: “For me personally, from a BIMCO perspective, I see it as a problem area because it is a potential catalyst for re-aggravating the local community.
“How we deal with it, though, is not within the Atalanta agreement, so it is a very difficult situation. However, it might be within the remit of other organisations and we are going to look to how we can discuss that further.”
“It is a very difficult area,” he explained, “and, very pointedly, the general said it was not within the EU NAVFOR remit because it was not within its mandate.”
At present, Noakes said, EU NAVFOR is passing questions about the matter to the European Union’s directorate-general for maritime affairs and fisheries (DG MARE). “DG MARE is investigating and will take action.”
Noakes called on the shipping industry to sustain practices to undermine illegal activities affecting the maritime domain, but said this needed real-time security information to be shared and that a global instrument for this was needed.
He supported the the work of CSO Alliance, an online group of chief security officers who share security intelligence.
“The CSO Alliance is an outstanding conduit for the passage of information and intelligence that will allow people to understand what is happening,” he said.
Asked if industry efforts to share security intelligence might one day eliminate the need for military involvement, Noakes replied, “Some form of military involvement, whatever happens in the future, should continue.
“Maritime domain awareness is about reporting and threat assessment and response and that has to be graduated. You can’t just have the shipping industry reporting and there being no real pointer.
“There are many very good risk intelligence companies out there … but when it comes to something as sensitive as this, you really need to corroborate that intelligence and it is governments that are providing those assets.”
It is, he said, also a matter of trust. “There is a significant amount of trust” in threat assessments provided by governmental security groupings, compared with those provided by single commercial organsiations, “which might have other interests that we can’t know anything about driving that threat assessment”.
Noakes said he would be concerned if the ‘three-legged stool’ of maritime security: onboard security, military security, and land-based actions to address the sources of illegal activities at sea, was undermined.
“If you take one leg away it will collapse. If we are going to return to some sense of normality, all we can do is shave down the legs on a graduated basis. We are not going to overreact. We want to talk together and we want to ensure that the success in deterring piracy becomes a defeat of piracy.”