Permanent Mission of Australia
to the United Nations
New York

19 November 2012 - Statement to the United Nations Security Council

19 November 2012


Statement by H.E. Philippa King
Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative
of Australia to the United Nations



Thank you Mr President, for convening this important debate. Australia welcomes the initiative to address the issue of piracy in a holistic, integrated manner.

Maritime security – including safe and secure sea lanes – is vital to the trade that underpins global economic growth. The economic costs of piracy are staggering – the cost of Somali piracy, for example, is estimated at several billion dollars in 2011 alone. Martime security and oceanic governance are central to the “blue economy”, on which island nations – such as those in Australia’s region – are reliant for their economic stability and livelihoods.

Piracy has significant social costs. Traditional fishers in affected areas can lose their occupations. And the victims that suffer most accutely are often the least visible: crew members held for ransom, their dependent families and the families of jailed pirates. Piracy is generally linked to other transnational criminal activity.

Mr President

Nearly 90 per cent of global piracy attacks last year took place in three regions – the Gulf of Guinea, Horn of Africa and Southeast Asia. While the situation in each region is very different, we believe there are parallels and lessons to be learned across them.

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea – where attacks are primarily associated with the offshore oil and gas industry – needs to be addressed urgently to avoid escalation. Australia commends the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for their progress on comprehensive regional counter-piracy strategies, and welcomes the proposed summit of ECCAS and ECOWAS Heads of State and Government next year. We encourage the development of a regional maritime information sharing mechanism.

Australia is pleased to be supporting efforts to address piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, including through an expert position in the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), support for ECOWAS’s development of an integrated maritime strategy, training for regional states on maritime security and oceanic governance currently underway in Australia, and partnerships to convene a maritime security workship in Ghana next year.

Turning to the Horn of Africa – where piracy has taken the form of hijacking and holding ships and crew to ransom – we echo other speakers in welcoming the progress that has been made. But we must all guard against complacency. These gains are easily reversible. Ultimately, addressing piracy in the region will depend on stability and on economic opportunity, including in coastal communities. It is vital that we – the international community – support the new Somali Government to consolidate recent gains. We also encourage the Government to progress declaration of Somalia’s Exclusive Economic Zone, to clarify the legal basis for protection of its sovereign rights with respect to natural resources and its jurisdiction over the marine environment.

Australia – an Indian Ocean country – has been engaged for some time in efforts to address piracy off the Horn of Africa, including through our contribution to the Combined Maritime Forces, support to enhance capacity of judicial systems in Somalia, Kenya, Seychelles, Mauritius and Tanzania.

In Southeast Asia, piracy has declined in recent years. This is in large part thanks to strong and effective cooperation between regional states. The main problem is now opportunistic theft from ships at port.

Mr President

Australia has been engaged in efforts to draw together lessons learned from counter-piracy efforts across these regions, including through a conference in July in Perth, Australia, and a follow up seminar in New York in October, which we were very pleased to co-host with the Permanent Mission of Benin. They key lessons to emerge include:

• Strengthening national capacities to counter piracy is a critical first step. Piracy is most effective when there is an absence of national capability, and effective international cooperation is based on the capacities of states to manage their jurisdictions.

• Effective action at sea begins on land. Piracy is generally an element of organised crime. It needs to be treated as such, and addressed at a variety of levels, not just at sea.

• International cooperation is essential to handle a cross-national problem. This can only take place where there is an established body of operational procedures between organisations. Exercises and training can help to establish these shared approaches and frameworks.

• Strengthening information sharing is vital. A common operating picture is an essential basis for an effective counter piracy strategy. And sharing of information is important to assist prosecutions.

• Importance of coast guard functions. It is important for navies or for separate coastguard organisations to have the necessary legal and organisational structures to do their jobs.

• Developing workable legal frameworks to prosecute pirates is critical. Building legal and enforcement capabilities to support effective prosecutions against those apprehended for acts of piracy or crime at sea needs to be an important international priority.

• Promoting best practice security in the international shipping industry is a sound investment. Significant progress has been made, but more needs to be done to make sure there is adequate compliance.

• We also need to do more to assist captured sea-farers and their families. Many hundreds of seafarers are currently being held hostage by pirates for ransom. More could be done internationally to address their situation and those of their families.

Mr President

Piracy is an issue which demonstrates the critical nexus between security and development. We cannot as a global community address this scourge in the long term without tackling its root causes, including lack of economic opportunity, employment and effective policing. And it is an issue which demonstrates the value – and necessity – of international cooperation. Australia will continue to play its part in this important endeavour.