Press release

FCO Press Release: Thursday 23rd February 2012…Somalia Conference sees important new action on piracy

February 27, 2012

As well as a range of action across political, security and stability priorities, today’s Somalia Conference saw important new efforts to tackle piracy.

  •  Foreign Secretary William Hague and Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe signed a Memorandum of Understanding allowing the Royal Navy to transfer suspected pirates to Tanzania to be prosecuted. The Foreign Secretary also signed a statement of intent with Mauritian Foreign Minsiter Arvin Boolell to conclude such an MOU by early June. The UK will continue to work with other states in the region to secure similar agreements.
  • Somaliland signed a ground breaking agreement with the Seychelles yesterday to transfer convicted pirates to prisons in Somaliland – the first transfer of 19 convicted pirates is likely to take place by the end of March.
  • Puntland made clear its commitment to the transfer of convicted pirates from prisons in the region to prisons in Puntland from August.
  • And the UK announced the creation of an international task force on pirate ransoms. This will bring together experts from across the world to better understand the ransom business cycle and how to break it. We will be working with international partners over the coming weeks to set out the structure and approach of the Task Force.

These steps come on top of further practical measures announced earlier this week. Foreign Secretary William Hague announced on Tuesday (21 February) that the UK is to provide the Director and £550,000 for the construction of the new Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecutions Intelligence Co-ordination Centre based in the Seychelles. That centre will coordinate and analyse intelligence to inform law enforcement operations, ensuring we hold to account not just individual pirates but those who finance and enable huge pirate operations. The UK also welcomed guidance provided by the International Maritime Organisation on the use of armed guards to Flag States and Ship owners, and to enhance the information on high risk areas available via their website.

We want to see a seamless cycle of justice where pirates are caught at sea by the Royal Navy, prosecuted in regional states and imprisoned in Somalia. The actions this week are aimed at that entire cycle. We also recognise that piracy is a symptom as well as a cause of Somalia’s lack of stability – piracy cannot be solved by action at sea alone which is why the Somalia Conference has also been addressing the root causes which lie on the land.

We also welcome today’s announcement by Shell, BP, Maersk and the Japanese Shipping Industry that they will be supporting coastal community projects in Somalia to also help tackle piracy.

Notes to Editors

Piracy is criminal activity, driven by profit derived from ransom payments. Ransoms are central to the piracy business model. Since 2007 Pirates have received over $250m in ransom payments, with the average ransom for 2011 reaching $5 million, up from just $150,000 in 2005. These payments strengthen the criminal elements that receive them, fuel corruption, and undermine the rule of law in Somalia. Above all ransom payments continue to incentivise further hostage-taking.

In addition to the establishment of the International Taskforce on Pirate ransoms, the UK will work through the existing UN sanctions regime on Somalia to target key pirate kingpins who endanger the lives and livelihoods of UK nationals as well as threatening peace and stability in Somalia.