Shipping professionals are seeking action on illegal fishing off Somalia after the EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) described the problem as outside the remit of its Operation Atalanta.
Violations of Somalia’s waters by foreign trawlers continue to aggravate maritime piracy in the region, according to the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO).
As part of London International Shipping Week, on 9 September the issue was discussed at a security meeting arranged by BIMCO, starting with a private meeting between chief security officers, BIMCO, and EU NAVFOR Operation Commander, Major General Martin Smith.
BIMCO Chief Maritime Security Officer Giles Noakes said illegal fishing is an area requiring “sustained” involvement from the shipping industry and “all stakeholders”.
“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,” he told IHS Maritime.
“How we deal with it, though, is not within the Atalanta mandate, 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.”
EU NAVFOR has “very pointedly” stated the problem lies outside its mandate and is passing questions on the issue to the European Union’s directorate general for maritime affairs and fisheries (DG MARE), he added.
“DG MARE is investigating that and will take action,” said Noakes.
He called on the shipping industry to follow practices that counter illegal activities, but said “real-time security information” needs sharing, requiring a “global instrument”.
He commended the work of CSO Alliance, an online group through which chief security officers share 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.
But “some form of military involvement” should continue, “whatever happens in the future”, he argued.
“Maritime domain awareness is about reporting and threat assessment and response – and that has to be graduated,” he said.
“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.”
Threat assessments by government organisations come with “a significant amount of trust,” while those from individual companies could reflect “other interests… that we can’t know anything about”, he said.
Noakes said he would be concerned by any threat to the “three-legged stool” of maritime security: onboard security, military security, and land-based actions to address the sources of illegal activities at sea.
“If you take one leg away it will collapse,” he said.
“If we are going to return to some sense of normalcy, all we can do is shave down the legs on a graduated basis. We are not going to over-react. We want to talk together and we want to ensure that the success in deterring piracy becomes a defeat of piracy.”