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Maritime Piracy

A ship is like an island. When a ship is out at sea, there are limitations with respect to protecting the ship. There are often few or no good Samaritans around and there is little or no police protection. What is more, a ship may enter into hostile territory wherein the government or controlling entity is not favorably disposed towards the ship.

In this environment, maritime criminality proliferates. There are often armed robberies aboard ocean liners bringing goods from one area to another. This piracy occurs in international waters and in territorial waters, mostly by nations that support such actions or have minimal control over the oceanic area. Notable concentrations of piracy on the high seas are in the waters off of Southeast Asia, the Horn of Africa, South America, and the Gulf of Guinea.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1851

In December of 2008, the U.N. passed Resolution 1851, which was passed in response to the increase of Somali piracy by the Horn of Africa. For the period of one year, the resolution called upon all states to actively combat piracy in Somalia. That meant a deployment of weaponized and other military vessels and warplanes to enter Somali territory and battle pirates. It specifically called for foreign militaries and law enforcement to arrest pirates and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.

Further resolutions were passed in 2013 and 2014 in an attempt to quash upsurging Somali piracy.

The European Union Response

The European Union, or EU, in response to piracy and to protect its vessels, expanded its anti-piracy program to the Horn of Africa under Operation Atalanta. The Operation was conceived to protect EU interests and help as humanitarian aid to the region. Under Operation Atalanta, there is a mandate to protect ships traveling to the region for the World Food Programme, African Union Mission in Somalia, and other vulnerable shipping and humanitarian operations.

The EU counter-piracy response was very effective. After the launch of Operation Atalanta, pirate activity within the Horn of Africa dropped precipitously. It also provided support to the Somali government to rebuild its infrastructure and further deter pirate activity.

The Gulf of Guinea

Meanwhile, on the western side of the African continent, pirate activity increased while Somali pirate activity decreased. In fact, during the first nine months of 2013, the International Maritime Bureau logged over 40 piracy attacks; seven of those attacks involved seizure of vessels, with 132 merchant marine personnel taken hostage.

In response to the Gulf of Guinea piracy surge, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 2018 in 2011 and 2039 in 2012 that were intended for the international community to provide tactical support to governments in the region seeking to control piracy. In addition, the resolutions also called for modernizing anti-piracy laws for those countries in the area struggling with pirate activity. Unfortunately, piracy in the area remains on the rise.

Are you involved in international shipping? Contact a law firm that is knowledgeable in the field. Contact the Kolodny law firm.

(image courtesy of Garrett Parker)

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