EU calls for global efforts against piracy

11:58, October 02, 2010      

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The European Union on Friday called for international efforts to fight rampant piracy along the East Africa coast.

Head of the EU delegation in Kenya Eric van der Linden said while the European and other naval forces continue to deter and interrupt piracy at the high seas, countries in the region should also take their responsibility to secure the East African coast.

"Prosecution and detention of suspects is one way to contribute and it is a very important part in the strategy to ensure that pirating ships and taking hostage of innocent seamen does not go unpunished," Linden said in Nairobi. Last week, the European naval forces rescued 9 Kenyan fishermen from coastal town of Malindi who had been taken hostage on board the MS Sherry.

Dozens of pirates have been sentenced while others have been captured and handed over to Kenyan authorities, a development the EU envoy said is good example of the cooperation between EU and Kenya.

"International partners would like to thank the Kenyan government for the good cooperation we had so far in the fight against piracy," Linde said.

The Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia, is the site of a dramatic uptick in pirate attacks over the last couple of years.

Ships in the Indian Ocean must traverse the Gulf of Aden to reach the Suez Canal or steam around the Cape of Good Hope, a longer and much costlier trip around the southern tip of Africa.

Linden said without international protection of the international maritime transport routes, ports like Mombasa of Kenya or Tanzania's Dar el Salaam would be even further affected by piracy. "With the end of the monsoon season there is a high increase in attacks, also close to the Kenyan coast," he warned. The EU diplomat said the Kenyan government has always assured the EU of its commitment to cooperating with the international community in the fight against piracy.

"We look forward to continued cooperation and reiterate our willingness to engage in consultations to overcome the difficulties Kenya might face in the prosecution of piracy suspects," he said.

Piracy is a threat to the East African region and to international transport. The crime damages Kenyan economic interests and the position of the port of Mombasa.

The Kenyan Shipping Council estimates that piracy has increased the monthly cost for imports by 23.8 million U.S. dollars and for exports by 9.8 million dollars.

Cruise ships are avoiding Mombasa as a consequence of piracy, with significant financial damage to the coast economy and tourism.

Rising insurance costs make the East African waters a more expensive transport route. Some shipping companies avoid it altogether and use the longer way via the Cape to get to European and Mediterranean countries.

"Kenyan leadership is particularly important at a time when other countries in the region, following the Kenyan example, are joining the international efforts to combat piracy," Linden said. Aside from the economics, the EU says there is a direct security interest for Kenya as the East African nation citizens themselves are being attacked.

The Kenyan flagged ship FV Sakoba was hijacked with 10 Kenyan citizens on board. The ship was also used as a mother ship for subsequent attacks, further putting in danger the life of those taken hostage. According to EU, piracy also destabilizes Somalia's development of the rule of law. The East African biggest economy needs a stable Somalia and therefore has an interest in joining international efforts to counter piracy. "Although long term solutions need to be found to address the root causes of piracy on land, in the short term the problems needs to be tackled by detention and prosecution of the suspects," the EU says. "Left untouched, piracy networks might gain influence and further undermine the State, also on Kenyan ground. There are no indications that piracy suspects are in any way linked to terrorism or Al Shabaab," the bloc says.

"On the contrary, they are equally despised by Somali extremists, as piracy is considered un-Islamic. The captured pirates in Kenyan prisons are merely 'foot soldiers' of criminal gangs."

Security experts say the return of frequent attacks is due in part to the waning monsoon season, which had curtailed pirate activity earlier in the year. The experts also say the presence of about 15 naval war ships devoted at least in part to combating piracy in the Gulf of Aden has pushed the pirates to operate farther south in the Indian Ocean.

Source: Xinhua

(Editor:王寒露)

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