x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

$4.5m war chest to combat hijackers

Donors at Dubai's anti-piracy conference donate millions to curb threat of Somali piracy.

Former special adviser to the UN on piracy, Jack Lang, attends the international conference in Dubai.
Former special adviser to the UN on piracy, Jack Lang, attends the international conference in Dubai.

DUBAI // Donors pledged about $4.5 million (Dh16.6m) to a UN trust fund which administrators hope will raise $25m in the next three years to combat Somali piracy.

The fundraising session formed part of a two-day conference aimed at drumming up international action - and financing - against the rising threat.

The conference was hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and DP World, the global ports operator based in Dubai, as a first step in taking a bigger role in international counter-piracy efforts.

The Government contributed $1m, DP World gave $100,000 and other UAE firms $300,000.

In an 11-point "final declaration", conference participants recognised the importance of "ensuring a fully resourced, comprehensive public-private counter-piracy approach".

The funds will largely go to support mechanisms to bring pirates to justice, according to the recommendations of a UN Security Council resolution passed on April 11, and based largely on a study by the former UN special adviser on piracy, Jack Lang.

The $25m budget marked just a fraction of the cost of piracy - both in terms of its financial toll on traders and navies, and in the human cost of kidnapped seafarers, Mr Lang said in his closing remarks.

"These needs are insignificant when measured against the overall cost of piracy, which amounts to several billion dollars, including insurance, security, naval operations and loss of revenue in the regional economies - not to mention the damage caused to victims, including the loss of human life," he said.

Since it was established in January last year, the fund has raised just over $7m. This week's pledges will bring the total to $11.5m.

To date, most of the fund has been spent on strengthening the judicial system in the Seychelles and Kenya, which have agreed to bring pirates into their court system.

This includes training law enforcement officials on how to gather the evidence needed to detain pirates, as well as prosecutors and judges.

The money has also been used to build new prisons in the Seychelles and in Somalia.

Two regions of Somalia yesterday agreed to accept pirates from overseas into their prisons.

Additional funds are likely to build upon these efforts, including the construction of new prisons in Somalia and possibly Tanzania.

Augustine Mahiga, head of the UN political office for Somalia, stressed the importance of prosecution.

He said nine out of 10 suspected pirates caught in international waters were released due to lack of evidence to prosecute them. Three in 10 were repeat offenders he said.