Having been in Puntland recently, it was very interesting to hear Henry Bellingham, Minister for Africa, talk about his visits to Puntland and that country’s cooperation with the UK Government, at a Parliamentary debate: ” Where next for UK policy on Somali Pirates” 13/12/11, Committee Room 9.
Members of the panel for this debate were Henry Bellingham MP, Michael Parker, President of the Chamber of Shipping and Graeme Henderson, Managing Director for SHELL. In the audience, we saw Lord West (former first sea lord, appointed by Gordon Brown PM), John Speller MP shadow Minister for Transport, Eric Joyce MP Chair of Great Lakes Africa APPG and Mark Brownrigg, Director General, Chamber of Shipping.
Henry Bellingham started by reminding us of a few statistics: 23,000 ships in GoA carrying $952 billion in cargo per annum. Piracy costs $10-12 billion per annum and $274 million has been paid out to date for ransoms while 17 ships and 400 hostages are s still held in Somalia. He also mentioned that there had been some success in that 1000 pirates have been captured and held in 20 countries inc USA. The social costs of piracy were highlighted by Michael Parker and Graeme Henderson (see more on this subject in this excellent You tube clip from Save our Seafarers) 66 seamen have been killed by ruthless pirates. The main concern for CoS is shrinking naval support in the Gulf of Aden and a growing reliance on private security.
While the UK supports robust military actions and private armed guards on ships, it is also working hard to improve prisioner transfers from Kenya, Seychelles and Tanzania. The UK govt is taking special interest in supporting the good work of the Puntland government in small fishing communities along the north coast of Somalia to deny pirates a base to operate from. The UK govt knows that long term damage is being done by pirates to Somalia and other East African countries who want to use sea trade to develop their economies.
Puntland is working hard to build stability in its government; you can see this first hand in Bosasso port where more ships now visit and more cargo is offloaded unimpeded. But it is not enough and more trade with more economically developed countries is needed so that more can be invested in Puntland ports and their anti-piracy police force. Private security firms like Britannia Maritime Security can be of significant help in giving confidence to ships that want to visit Puntland coastal waters and ports like Bosasso. Ships that go their will find the Puntland authorities most supportive of Private Security Companys. In this way the government can build both it’s anti-piracy police force and it’s program to reeducate coastal communities about the damage piracy causes.Henry Bellingham also reminded us of David Cameron’s commitment to help Puntland and fix the piracy problem in the Gulf of Aden. A UK delegation has now been to Mogudishu to speak with President Sharif Shieikh Ahmed to lay the ground work for further discussions to take place on the 23rd February with UK Government at a ‘Somalia Conference’ in London. Don’t miss it.