On Friday 27 September 2013, the ETF and ECSA (European Community Shipowners’ Associations) denounced in a joint declaration the aggravating situation in the Gulf of Guinea with regard to piracy attacks and the use of extreme violence. The European Social Partners for Maritime Transport therefore call on the EU to take vigorous action by means of a comprehensive EU strategy and avoid the Gulf of Guinea grows into the new piracy hot spot.
EU’s toolbox to fight piracy
The ETF and ECSA praise in that same joint declaration EU’s coordinated efforts, as those made in the framework of the so-called operation ATALANTA, in the Gulf of Aden, one of the regions in the world most targeted by pirates. The Social Partners reminded that it was the combination of European Union’s military, trade, development, diplomatic and legal instruments that made the number of successful attacks of the coast of Somalia decrease severely and the amount of kidnapped seafarers reduce from 850 to 80 over the last four years. Now the ETF and ECSA ask the EU and Member States to prolong operation ATALANTA until 2016 and apply a similar “toolbox” in the Gulf of Guinea.
Security situation demands action today
The Social Partners demand from the EU to execute four particular measures in order to stabilise the security situation in the Gulf of Guinea and by doing so also avoid a rise in costs on African imports and exports that jeopardises jobs and the economic activity in African States.
Whilst most of the attacks take place in territorial waters, attempts in international waters are increasing. Therefore, considerable international military presence outside territorial waters is needed to protect the security of seafarers and vessels outside territorial waters in West Africa. Secondly, in order to ensure the proper protection by local navy in territorial waters, the Social Partners request that EU funding is made available to local States enabling them to build capacity to provide high quality local naval capabilities and facilitate regional cooperation.
Thirdly, a well-functioning monitoring and reporting systemis crucial to guarantee shipowners the provided information about the regional situation is kept confidential and protected, goes to the right persons and flows into appropriate action.
The ETF and ECSA also point out reality forces shipowners to consider the employment of private armed guards on board their vessels as a viable option. However, clarity about which legal framework is applicable in these cases is key, in particular to officers and masters to avoid placing them in harm’s way. The Social Partners call the EU and Member States to also explore the possibility of bilateral discussions with the concerned African States to ensure shipowners use quality private armed guardswhen deemed necessary.
The ETF and ECSA strongly urge all relevant Commission Directorate Generals and the European External Action Service to address security situation in the Gulf of Guinea before it has a chance to grow. In parallel, both organisations will jointly work towards a set of best practices for navigating this region, for preparing shipowners and seafarers adequately and for ensuring reporting takes place.