On the 1st of February the CGPCS held a strategy meeting to take stock and plan its future activities. The one day event hosted by the Government of India and organized by the current chairmen, the Government of the Seychelles, took place at the Taj Lands End Hotel in Mumbai. The meeting was structured in four sessions (see the final meeting agenda here). Over 60 representatives of the CGPCS stakeholder community participated. The first session was comprised of welcome remarks, session two reviewed the contemporary situation, session three took stock of the activities of the Working Groups, while the final session was concerned with the strategic questions for 2016.
The meeting was opened by a welcome speech of the host, the government of India. Mr.Deepak Shetty, Director General of the Indian Directorate General of Shipping welcomed the participants. He highlighted the great achievements of the CGPCS and the important contributions of all stakeholders. Yet, as he stressed in the speech, the risk of piracy remains and a number of regulatory challenges, such as floating armouries, still require responses. Mr. Joël Morgan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Transport, Government of the Seychelles, the acting Chairman of CGPCS, welcomed the participants, laid out the agenda for the day as well as the core objectives of the Seychelles chairmanship. Mr. Morgan emphasized the challenges that the international community still faces
We recognize that even while we are making headway on the high seas as acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia further degrades, that the work of the international community will never truly be completed while the threats of instability brought about by terrorist elements on land still exists, and while the territorial waters of Somalia and the resources which it brings are not respected. Our work continues as well to ensure that all mariners currently being held by pirate gangs are returned safe and sound back to their countries of origin and to their loved ones.
Outlining the agenda of the chairmanship, he stressed the importance of planning for the mid to long term and ensuring that a lasting legacy is created in the region:
The Seychelles Presidency during its tenure, aims to consolidate the achievements of the CGPCS into a lasting legacy of structures, capacities and mechanisms that work and that have delivered to date. The international reaction to Somali piracy started as a response to a crisis. Now we need to consolidate the achievements of the crisis response and turn them into lasting mechanisms for regional and international cooperation. While we convene and deliberate let us resolve to keep our focus on the end game and the ‘what happens after’, as piracy further erodes and risks decline. We must be careful in not losing what has been achieved by not having assets that can be used to effectively check and counter check any attempt by pirate gangs to reassert themselves.
The full text of the speech is available here.
Remaining Challenges: The current situation
In session two four presentations were given on the current situation and activities of stakeholders. Mr. Raj Mohabeer from the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) provided an overview over the implementation of the regional Maritime Security Project, known as MASE, which is funded by the European Union. As Mr. Mohabeer argued the project had a very successful start and promises to provide a lasting structure for maritime security in the region. (The power point presentation is available here).
Mr. John Steed representing the non-governmental organization Oceans Beyond Piracy gave an update on the situation of the hostages in the hands of pirates. Mr Steed reminded the participants of the fate of hostages and stressed that the number of hostages is de facto higher than accounted in some of the official statistics.
EUNAVFOR, represented by Colonel Rory Copinger-Symes, gave an update on the current piracy threat. In largely re-iterating the threat assessment provided by SHADE at the last CGPCS plenary, Copinger-Symes argued that a significant threat remained. Both the intent to commit acts of piracy as well as the capacities to do so are still in place. Moreover, the observable decline of BMP compliance and use of private armed guards implies that opportunities for launching successful piracy attacks are potentially on the rise.
The session was concluded by a presentation of the shipping industry. Mr. Giles Noake from BIMCO detailed the process that lead to the autumn revision of the High Risk Area. He emphasized that the shipping industry does all that is needed to safeguard commercial shipping and that the BMP will continue to be a flexible tool that will be updated as needed.
Updates from the Working Groups
The CGPCS continues its work in the frame of three Working Groups, a virtual legal forum, and two technical subgroups. The third session of the meeting focused on the work of these groups and their agenda for 2016. The Working Group on Capacity Building chaired by the UK and the IOC continues to primarily focus its efforts on supporting Somalia in its maritime security sector reform process. An update on the regional needs assessment is also planned for 2016. The main work of the Working Group on coordination at sea, chaired by the Seychelles, the UAE and Japan for 2016 will focus on the maritime situational awareness architecture for the region. It was announced that the Seychelles would resign from co-chairing the group, and the government of India volunteered to take over that role. The Working Group on disrupting pirate networks ashore, chaired by Italy will continue its work, primarily in supporting the Law Enforcement Task Force. It was re-emphasized that the invitation to regional states to co-chair the group is still standing.
Strategic issues and the run-up to the 19th plenary.
The final session was devoted to strategic issues. Participants discussed the main goals and objectives of the Seychelles chairmenship which were summarized in a so-called master messages document (which is available here). The core objective will be to further regionalize the work of the group and to work towards a sustainable transition strategy. In the debate on the master messages, participants highlighted that the future of the CGPCS still required substantial discussion. The stakeholders outlined different options for the group. Some participants emphasized that the CGPCS work could be carried on by extending its mandate. The mandate could be widened either functional to cover different maritime security issues (such as illegal fishing or the link between maritime security and the blue economy) in the Western Indian Ocean region. It could also be extended regionally to cover cover piracy situations in other regions, such as Western Africa, or South East Asia. in a reform process. A range of participants raised concerns over any extensions of the mandate in pointing to the underlying UN Security Council resolution, or in stressing that the success of the group was always linked to its ‘laser sharp’ focus on piracy off the coast of Somalia. There was however agreement that the work of the CGPCS could be further streamlined. Following earlier proposals this could be in reducing the number of working groups (e.g. one working group on Somalia and one on the region), condensing the work of the plenary, or making better use of ICT. The reform and future debate will become a major item on the 19th plenary agenda. It was announced that the plenary will take place in the first week of June in Victoria, Seychelles.
The official summary of the meeting by the CGPCS chairmen is available here.