x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A regional solution on the high seas

The UAE has rightly taken the lead in bringing together partners from all over the world to discuss how nations can best cooperate to diminish the threat of piracy. But while international patrols and joint maritime agreements may temporarily address the issue, the ultimate solution lies in stabilising Somalia.

With a thriving black market on the Somali coast, ransoms of up to $10 million (Dh36.7million), and the lack of international will to prosecute pirates, there has been little to dissuade Somali men from turning to pirate gangs.

Somalia’s hobbled government, which was represented at yesterday’s conference in Dubai, appears incapable of solving this crisis alone. “We know we will win,” Mohammed Abdulahi Omar Asharq, the foreign minister of Somalia’s transitional federal government, told an audience of more than 50 dignitaries from around the world. “But how long it takes and at what cost will depend on your response, your partnership and your leadership.”

The international community has already taken significant steps to diminish attacks that have emanated from Somalia’s impoverished shores.

The Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor in the Gulf of Aden, which is patrolled by EU and Nato naval forces, has greatly deterred tanker attacks. Cooperation between nations, meanwhile, has helped to save hostages, as was the case this month when UAE forces rescued a hijacked crew with the help of the US Fifth Fleet.

But as yesterday’s conference in Dubai revealed, there is a lot to do. From Yemen’s beleaugured fishing community to the enormous trade volume that passes through Dubai’s docks, piracy has hit regional industries hard. Rising insurance rates and the high price of prosecution can cost the shipping industry millions, while companies are also having difficulty recruiting mariners as hostage situations become more deadly.

The UAE has done well to take the lead in bringing together partners from all over the world to discuss how nations can best cooperate to diminish the threat of piracy. But while international patrols and joint maritime agreements may temporarily address the issue, the ultimate solution rests in stabilising Somalia. Piracy and its spoils can have proven irresistible for the many who lack an education, a job, or a better prospect for their future.