Piracy Issues

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Piracy Issues

Piracy in 2013

United States views on international law [1] in relation to Piracy: On April 20, 2013, Andrew J. Shapiro, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, testified before the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and in this world legal Encyclopediastructure's Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Marine Transportation. Mr. Shapiro's statement is excerpted below and available at (Secretary of State website) state.gov/t/pm/rls/rm/2013/207361.htm.

Some Aspects of Piracy

I would like to briefly outline our approach to tackling piracy off the coast of Somalia. The Obama administration developed and pursued an integrated multi-dimensional approach to combat piracy. The overriding objective of which, was to make sure that piracy didn't pay. Piracy above all is a business. It is based on the potential to make money by preying on the vast supply of ships that pass through the waters off Somalia. What we have done is made it so the pirate's business model was no longer profitable. Pirates today can no longer find helpless victims like they could in the past and pirates operating at sea now often operate at a loss. This has truly been an international and an inter-agency effort. I will let my colleagues speak in more detail about the remarkable international naval effort off the coast of Somalia, which has been a critical component of our efforts to combating piracy. The naval effort has helped create a protected transit corridor and has helped ships in need and deterred pirate attacks. However, there is often just too much water to patrol. While naval patrols are an absolutely essential component of any effective counter-piracy strategy, we recognized that we needed to broaden our efforts. First, the United States has helped lead the international response and galvanize international action. …


All countries connected to the global economy have an interest in addressing piracy. … We therefore sought to make this a collective effort and build new kinds of partnerships and coalitions. In January 2009, the United States helped establish the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, which now includes over 80 nations and international, and industry organizations bound together on an ad hoc and purely voluntary basis. The Contact Group meets frequently to coordinate national and international counter-piracy actions. The Contact Group has become an essential forum. It helps galvanize action and coordinate the counter-piracy efforts of states, as well as regional and international organizations. Through the Contact Group, the international community has been able to coordinate multi-national naval patrols, work through the legal difficulties involved in addressing piracy, and cooperate to impede the financial flows of pirate networks. While we don't always agree on everything at the Contact Group, we agree on a lot, and this coordinated international engagement has spawned considerable international action and leveraged resources and capabilities. Second, the United States has sought to empower the private sector to take steps to protect themselves from attack. This has been perhaps the most significant factor in the decline of successful pirate attacks and here too our diplomatic efforts have played a critical role. We have pushed the maritime industry to adopt so-called Best Management Practices— which include practical measures, such as: proceeding at full-speed through high risk areas and erecting physical barriers, such as razor wire. The U.S. government has required U.S.-flagged vessels sailing in designated high-risk waters to fully implement these measures. These measures have helped harden merchant ships against pirate attack. But perhaps the ultimate security measure a commercial ship can adopt is the use of privately contracted armed security teams. These teams are often made up of former members of various armed forces, who embark on merchant ships and guard them during transits through high risk waters. The use of armed security teams has been a game changer in the effort to combat piracy. To date, not a single ship with armed security personnel aboard has been successfully pirated.


For our part, the U.S. government led by example. Early on in the crisis we permitted armed personnel aboard U.S.-flagged merchant vessels in situations where the risk of piracy made it appropriate to do so. We also made a concerted diplomatic effort to encourage port states to permit the transit of armed security teams. This included working with countries to address the varying national legal regimes, which can complicate the movement of these teams and their weapons from ship-to-ship or ship-to-shore. American Ambassadors, Embassy officials, and members of our counter-piracy office at the State Department pressed countries on this issue. I myself, in meetings with senior officials from key maritime states have made the case that permitting armed personnel aboard ships is an effective way to reduce successful incidents of piracy. U.S. diplomatic efforts have therefore been critical to enabling the expanded use of armed personnel. Third, we have sought to deter piracy through effective apprehension, prosecution and incarceration of pirates and their networks. Today, over 1,000 pirates are in custody in 20 countries around the world. Most are, or will be, convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. The United States has encouraged countries to prosecute pirates and we have supported efforts to increase prison capacity in Somalia. We have also sought to develop a framework for prisoner transfers so convicted pirates serve their sentence back in their home country of Somalia.


But as piracy evolved into an organized transnational criminal enterprise, it became increasingly clear that prosecuting low-level pirates at sea was not on its own going to significantly change the dynamic. We also needed to target pirate kingpins and pirate networks. As any investigator who works organized crime will tell you—we need to follow the money. This focus is paying off. Today, we are collaborating with law enforcement and the intelligence community, as well as our international partners like Interpol, to detect, track, disrupt, and interdict illicit financial transactions connected to piracy and the criminal networks that finance piracy. We have also helped support the creation of the Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecution and Coordination Center in the Seychelles. This Center hosts multinational law enforcement and intelligence personnel who work together to produce evidentiary packages that can be handed off to any prosecuting authority in a position to bring charges against mid-level and top-tier pirates.


This is having an impact. A number of Somali pirate leaders have publicly announced their “retirement” or otherwise declared their intention to get out of the business. Needless to say we and our international partners remain committed to apprehending and convicting these pirate leaders. But it does show they are feeling the impact of our efforts. Lastly, the most durable long-term solution to piracy is the re-establishment of stability in Somalia. The successful Somali political transition in 2012 that put in place a new provisional constitution, new parliament, and a new president is clearly a step in the right direction, but much remains to be done. Supporting the emergence of effective and responsible governance in Somalia will require continued, accountable assistance to the Somali government to build its capacity to deal with the social, legal, economic, and operational challenges it faces. Once Somalia is capable of policing its own territory and its own waters, piracy will fade away. To that end, the United States continues to support the newly established government in Mogadishu. The comprehensive, multilateral approach that we have pursued has helped turn the tide on piracy and has provided an example of how the U.S. government and the international community can respond to transnational threats and challenges in the future. …


In relation to the international law practice and Piracy in this world legal Encyclopedia, please see the following section:

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  1. Piracy in Digest of United States Practice in International Law
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