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UAE leads global voices against maritime piracy

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Allan Jacob


Armed Somali pirates carrying out preparations to a skiff in Hobyo, northeastern Somalia. — AFP file

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In the fight against maritime piracy, humans pay the most with their lives. Ask families of captured crew about the months of agony and sleepless nights. Some ships like the MV Iceberg 1 have been missing for over two years — the longest in the captivity of Somali pirates. Efforts to free others like the MV Albedo have run into rough weather, with pirates upping their demands and threatening the kin of their victims.

Ransoms are being negotiated and families live in hope as more ships are attacked. It’s a vicious cycle and the UAE hopes the second counter piracy conference beginning today will provide a regional response to end the phenomenon.

Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Foreign Minister, is seeking a comprehensive solution to the problem where all actors from the public and private sectors are involved.

“The persistence of pirate activity off the coast of Somalia reaffirms the UAE’s belief that more work toward a comprehensive international counter piracy response is required. We are confident that this important meeting will contribute further to the realisation of a long-term and sustainable solution to this issue of major global concern,” Shaikh Abdullah said in a statement. Pirate actions cost the world $7 billion in ransoms, according to the Oceans Beyond Piracy project. Some 555 sailors were taken hostage last year. Of these, 35 died at the hands of the criminals, according to the figures released last week.

Mariners are often used as human shields and are subject to abuse. Released sailors said they were burnt with cigarette butts, punched and slapped, while some recalled being tied up in the sun for hours, locked in freezers, and having their fingernails pulled out with pliers.

Shocking statistics, but it’s time to face the facts that this violence cannot be tolerated and the two-day initiative by the UAE will also focus on the genesis of the problem in deprived Somalia. President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed of Transitional Federal Government of Somalia will attend the meeting with a top delegation and deliver the keynote address. Koji Sekimizu, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organisation will speak of the losses the shipping has had to incur.

The London conference on Somalia held earlier this year had pledged to combat and boost humanitarian aid to the country and another meet in Istanbul sought a political solution to tackle the issue at source. Development work must continue in Somalia and the UAE is taking the lead through this gathering to finding ways to help suffering Somalis who face famine, poor governance and a violent society in shambles .

Shaikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, will host the 400 delegates, and Reem Ibrahim Al Hashimi, Minister of State, will participate in a discussion.

Industry will be led by DP World chairman Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Vice-Chairman Jamal Majid bin Thaniah, and Ali Obaid Al Yabhouni, President, UAE Ship Owners Association.

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