On 20 June 2019, the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia held its 22nd plenary session in Mauritius, welcoming approximately 150 delegates from various states, regional and international organisations including those associated with the United Nations, and independent NGOs.
Before the plenary, Mauritius hosted the 2nd Ministerial Conference on Maritime Security and meetings of working groups of the CGPCS. Members deliberated over the threat assessment in the Indian Ocean in view of various maritime crime, including piracy off Somalia. The law enforcement agencies stated that while there have been no successful incidents of piracy in the Indian Ocean, the threat still remains. A senior officer from EUNAVFOR mentioned that piracy is only contained and not eradicated.
Members were also briefed on the capacity-building work being carried out by various agencies in Somalia and the progress made so far. The two-year term of present Chair (Indian Ocean Commission) shall end this year end and members commended the new incoming Chair, Kenya, who reaffirmed their commitment towards working together to achieve the objectives of the CGPCS.
During the following plenary session, ISWAN’s Regional Director in South Asia, Chirag Bahri, spoke about ISWAN’s work and its outreach to seafarers and families who had suffered due to piracy. While recalling that four Iranian hostages still remain in the captivity of Somali pirates, Mr. Bahri then informed delegates about the progress of rehabilitation work for the seafarers of Naham 3, Albedo, Iceberg 1. He also shared stories of their heroic journey, from being held in captivity for at least four years to re-joining ships or other means of livelihood. He stressed that even seafarers who may not have yet faced an attack in piracy-prone waters are still extremely stressed and vulnerable to an attack.
Mr. Bahri also briefed members on ISWAN’s training course for seafarers, which is currently being revised, and called on member states to include training and briefing of seafarers prior to them joining a ship. While acknowledging the work of various agencies to contain piracy, Mr. Bahri again requested that the perpetrators of crime including kingpins should be prosecuted and money trails traced to try to address some of the root causes of maritime crime at sea.
The Chair and various other delegates applauded the work of seafarers and highlighted that the invaluable services provided by ISWAN’s Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) have been instrumental in providing humanitarian support to the affected seafarers and families. The Chair also expressed a desire for the seafarers who had been hijacked by Somali pirates to be invited to speak about their ordeal at a future plenary session in collaboration with ISWAN and other relevant organisations.
ISWAN thanked the Chair of CGPCS for their warm appreciation and support to the programme.