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Piracy attacks on merchant vessels threaten the freedom and unhindered operation of international shipping and trade, both off the coast of Somalia and in the region of the Gulf of Guinea. Indicatively, according to an “Oceans Beyond Piracy” report, the losses for the global economy deriving from the cost of piracy off the coast of Somalia came to some $6 billion in 2012.
Also very heavy is the cost of piracy for the hostage merchant marine personnel who are deprived of their freedom for months, or even lose their lives.
A. REGION OFF THE COAST OF SOMALIA
Reacting to the escalation of the piracy threat off the coast of Somalia, the UN Security Council passed a number of resolutions (including 1814/2008, 1816/2008, 1838/2008, 1846/2008, 2125/2013 and 2184/2014) to confront it, while a number of states, including the U.S., China, Russia and India, sent naval forces.
Within the framework of the European Union, the European Maritime Security Strategy was adopted in June 2014, during the Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union. This Strategy constitutes the framework within which the competent national and European authorities will act and be coordinated, with the objective being to provide a common framework for relevant authorities at national and European levels to ensure coherent development of their specific policies and a European response to maritime threats and risks. The second aim of such a strategy is to protect the EU's strategic maritime interests and identify options to do so. Piracy is one of the areas dealt with by this Strategy.
Operating in the region are ΝΑΤΟ Operation Ocean Shield, in collaboration with the European Union, which has also deployed a similar action, EU NAVFOR Somalia – Operation Atalanta, for protecting shipping and deterring piracy. Moreover, the EU, in its effort to remedy the root causes of piracy and to invest in the Somalian authorities’ gaining capabilities for managing the problem, has deployed the EUTM Somalia (European Union Training Mission Somalia) and EUCAP Nestor (regional capabilities development) missions.
Coordination of anti-piracy operations and other programmes has been undertaken by the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia - CGPCS, which was established on a U.S. initiative, based on UN Security Council Resolution 1851/2008, and met for the first time in January 2009.
In parallel, global shipping is constantly readapting its actions with regard to best practices for vessels’ protecting themselves. Best Management Practices Version 4 - BMP4 was last updated and enriched in August 2011.
Piracy activity off the coast of Somalia is currently at its lowest level since 2006. This decline is attributed to the effective action of the CGPCS, to the implementation by merchant-vessel crews of Best Management Practices (BMP), and to the widespread measure of having armed private guards on vessels.
Concurrently, the gradual improvement of the problematic situation on Somalian territory is continuing – with the active support of the international community and regional actors – mainly in the sectors of national reconciliation, institutional building and strengthening of democracy, with the ultimate goals of the adoption in 2015 of the Federal Constitution and the holding of elections in 2016. International efforts are aimed at rebuilding local capabilities and providing appropriate support for the Federal Government of Somalia so that the latter can regain control of its territory.
Greece is a founding member of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, which it chaired in the first half of 2010. From December 2008 to April 2009, Greece commanded the EU “Atalanta” operation, in which it participated with the frigate “Hydra”, until March 2012, and the frigate “Psara”, from February to May 2014.
Also under way is the cooperation between NATO’s Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Centre (NMIOTC), in Souda, and the International Maritime Organization, within the framework of the Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCoC), for training personnel from DCoC member states (Jordan, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, the Comoro Islands, South Africa, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Somalia, and Yemen).
On the level of national legislation, the Greek authorities have prosecuted persons who have seized ships under Greek flag. Law 4058/16.03.2012 regulates the issue of private armed security teams on merchant vessels
B. GULF OF GUINEA REGION
The decline in piracy off the coast of Somalia coincided with the escalation of particularly violent instances of piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea region, in West Africa: During the first nine months of 2013, the International Maritime Bureau logged over 40 piracy attacks, of which seven involved seizure of vessels, with 132 merchant marine personnel taken hostage.
In resolutions 2018 (2011) and 2039 (2012), the UN Security Council urges the international community to provide practical support for the efforts of the states in the region to take measures against piracy on the national and regional levels.
Following a proposal from Greece, in December 2013 the International Maritime Organization - IMO adopted a resolution on prevention and combating of piracy, armed robbery of vessels, and illegal maritime activity in the Gulf of Guinea.