The PLA Navy of China Contribution to Counter-Piracy

In the most recent contribution to the lessons learned project of the CGPCS the People’s Liberation Army Navy revisits its contribution to counter-piracy operation off the Horn of Africa. The official report submitted by PLA Navy at the instruction of the Ministry of Defense, People’s Republic of China, particularly outlines how the PLA has participated in the multi-lateral protection and escort efforts in the area  Read the full briefing here.

Lessons from Operational Analysis at CMF

In this contribution to the Lessons Learned Project, Matthew R. MacLeod (Canada) and William M. Wardrop (UK) discuss the role of Operational Analysis (OA) for the work of the Combined Maritime Forces. As they discuss in the paper, operational analysis was instrumental to ensure an effective employment of naval assets in an operational area of over 2.5 million square miles. They discuss the challenges of covering such a large area of operations with relatively few units, and how OA contributed to tracking and reporting realistic effectiveness. They conclude in discussing recent attempts to deepen the analysis of the maritime pattern of life. The paper can be read here. It was originally presented at the 32nd International Symposium of Military Operational Research, July 2015.

The High Risk Area debate – What was at stake?

Since 2012 the CGPCS agenda was increasingly occupied by the question whether the High Risk Area (HRA) of the Best Management Practices (BMP) should be revised. Why did the high risk area become so controversial? What’s at stake in the debate? What can be learned from this debate? A new lessons learned paper sets out to address these issues. The paper offers a detailed reconstruction of the making of the BMP and the high risk area (HRA). The BMP were developed in a political and legal greyzone, the HRA became linked to various other areas, such as the Lloyds listed areas. The BMP and the HRA were increasingly legalized, through endorsements, but also references in national regulations and legislation. Once piracy declined and unmaking the HRA became the core question this ambiguous status became problematic. The HRA debate in consequence concerned space (where is a high risk? can sovereign territorial waters be included?), authority (who is to evaluate if their is a risk or not?) and expertise (how can one decide whether the risk is high or low?). These larger political questions came to the fore, once piracy attacks declined. The debate points us to the limits of the informal, experimental and pragmatic approach of counter-piracy. Many larger political questions were only bracketed. Yet, the CGPCS also succeed in finding a solution to the debate, as it was announced in October. Ten core lessons can be distilled from the HRA controversy. These pertain in particular to the question of how to design the prospective BMP5 as well as set up other risk zones in the future. They are, however, also lessons that point to the limits of purely pragmatic international policymaking processes. The HRA was introduced as a quick fix. The intent was to focus attention, give guidance to the shipping industry and coordinate international activities. The primary attention went into the question of how compliance with the BMP could be strengthened. When the notion was introduced no one anticipated the quick success of the international community and that piracy attacks would simply stop. The process of making the BMP was not documented, and hence the question of how they could be ‘unmade’ remained unclear. No mechanism was put in place for how to revise the area if needed. Lesson 1: Making a risk zone requires awareness for the un-intended consequences and the establishment of a review mechanism from the onset. Part of the HRA controversy was the problem of conflating different counter-piracy zones, namely the zones established by the insurance industry for mitigating financial risks, by the IBF to negotiate labour contracts, by the shipping industry for strengthening self-protective measures and by the states to coordinate their naval protection and patrol program. The relations between these different zones was unclear and never officially clarified. Lesson 2: In establishing a zone of exception ensure accuracy in naming, by clearly documenting who establishes what zone for which purpose. To label the special zone “high risk area” was a misnomer. While the concept of “high risk” … Continue reading

The CGPCS: in 15 steps explained

In a new Powerpoint presentation by the EEAS the work of the CGPCS is explained in 15 easy steps. The presentation discusses how the CGPCS was designed, how it functions and why it worked so well in containing piracy. It also discusses the link between the CGPCS and the broader UN architecture (view the entire presentation here).

Countering Somali Piracy: Pakistan’s Perspective

In this paper, Vice Admiral (Retd) Asaf Humayun, Director General – National Centre for Maritime Policy Research, Bahria University, Karachireflects on the role of Pakistan as an active participant in the fight against Somali piracy since 2009 and as a member of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia since 2010. Pakistan’s involvement in the mission against Somali piracy has been a direct consequence both of the impact of piracy on Pakistani sailors and to project Pakistan’s broader involvement in international peace and security missions at the global level. Pakistan’s contribution to counter-piracy efforts has been diverse. Public donation drives, for example, were launched in 2011 and 2012 for the recovery of MV Suez and MV Albedo and considerable work has been undertaken by the National Centre for Maritime Policy Research at Bahria University and the centre’s Marine Piracy Human Response Program to alleviate the suffering of piracy victims. While Pakistan has actively pursued the goals of the CGPCS it has done so in a fashion that has been bounded by limited resources and the small size of her diplomatic mission at the UN and modest maritime footprint. Despite Pakistan’s best efforts, amidst these restraints, to actively contribute to the work of the Contact Group, these efforts appear to have not always been widely known to the broader CGPCS community and could have been better disseminated for the benefit of the CGPCS and the Working Groups. Nevertheless, the successes of Pakistan’s involvement in counter piracy efforts and the CGPCS have included the ability of to highlight its contribution in Task Forces 150 and 151 at United Nations. It was also possible for Pakistan to point at the plight of Pakistani victims of piracy. Pakistan also continuously urged stabilization of the internal situation in Somalia and quickly became aware of the practices of better-equipped and well-informed countries. Pakistan’s involvement in counter-piracy efforts have also sparked capacity development, with an expansion of her naval operations and the establishment, in 2013, of a Joint Maritime Information Co-ordination Centre in Karachi to gather and share all required information among national stakeholders for maritime domain awareness. The paper also identifies a number of lessons that have been learned from Pakistan’s involvement in counter-piracy more generally and the Contact Group more specifically, The main learning experience for the Pakistan Navy has been the increased emphasis given to Maritime Security Operations (MSO) and Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO). In light of her experience at Contact Group meetings and the limitations placed by existing resources Pakistan needs to build professional capacity to follow the world’s maritime dialogues. However, the Contact Group could assist in this areas by adopting internet technology and streaming its meetings online through webinars or other, similar methods. The imposition of a large High Risk Area (HRA) for such a long period has had adverse impact on Pakistan’s maritime trade and activities. CGPCS should impress upon IMO and UKMTO to review HRA periodically and modify HRA in a dynamic manner, according to weather … Continue reading

Reactive, Mobile and Nimble: In Conversation with Alan Cole

In this conversation Alan Cole, head of the UNODC Counter Piracy Programme (2009-2013) and UNODC Maritime and Transnational Crime Programme (since 2013) discusses how the CGPCS achieved to get a broad range of actors together and focus attention on the problem of piracy. He also takes a critical stance in arguing that more should have been done to ensure commitment from the government of Somalia and that not always all of the stakeholders have been adequately represented. He identifies the dangers that the CGPCS increasingly suffers from inefficiencies and over time has become more ritualistic and hence risks losing its experimentalist spirit. He foregrounds the importance of focussing the work on the challenges and the areas were the collective brainpower of the CGPCS members can make a difference. The conversation also includes reflections on how the future counter-piracy architecture could look like. The conversation was held on the 3rd of November 2014 at the UNODC offices, United Nations Office in Nairobi. How did you get involved with the Contact Group for the first time? AC: The Contact Group predates my time with the UNODC, it was running before I joined the UNODC in May 2009. So I was originally involved in my previous role as a naval lawyer in the UK. When did you attend your first meeting? AC: I think I’m right in saying it was Vienna in the first few months of 2009. That was Working Group 2 which met in Vienna for the first time to discuss legal issues and at the time I had just done some legal advice on detention of piracy suspects  by HMS Cumberland, one of the first transfers to  Kenya  and that was how I was involved. What was your impression of the first meeting? AC: One of my first thoughts was why isn’t a UN agency taking the leadership on this issue? Why is it necessary to have a Contact Group? Surely given the multitude of UN agencies involved in Somalia, UNDP, the UNODC and IMO there isn’t a need for an ad-hoc organisation?   To some extent it is an implied criticism of the UN response that it was necessary to establish a Contact Group at all. But anyway, be that as it may, it was impressive that states came together so quickly to address an emergent phenomenon.   I suspect that their enthusiasm to do so was accelerated by the fact that piracy impacts directly on  Western states, not just Somalia and its neighbours.  I don’t believe you would have seen the same response had it been purely a regional phenomenon What would you say is the difference between a Working Group and a Plenary meeting? AC: The difference should be that the Working Groups are dealing with substantive issues at the  level of officials and the Plenary is receiving reports on those substantive issues. But to some extent this concept gets corrupted, so for example at the 17th Plenary that just took place in Dubai we had a report from one … Continue reading

Focus on Delivery! In conversation with Phil Holihead, IMO

In this conversation Phil Holihead, head of the Project Implementation Unit of the Djibouti Code of Conduct of the International Maritime Organization, lays out some of the lessons from piracy from the perspective of an implementation agency. He underlines the importance of the CGPCS for networking and identifying collaborative projects. Holihead stresses that the emphasis of the CGPCs work has to be put on implementation, delivering, or “doing” as he puts it. There is a continuous risk that meetings of the Contact Group become talk shops, not the least because too many different actors and agendas are combined in some of the formats. Holihead moreover outlines how important the relationship between containment and capacity building is, and that capacity building should focus on the broader long-term perspective. He also lays out how the international community should react to future outbreaks of piracy and stresses the importance of taking a long term and preventive perspective. The interview took place at IMO Headquarters, 9th September 2014. A full version of the interview is also available as pdf download here. Thank you for taking the time to speak to the Lessons Learned Consortium. As a first question, can you tell us how you heard for the first time about the Contact Group? PH: The Contact Group was formed before I came to the IMO; the IMO’s counter piracy project implementation unit was formed in April 2010. Right from the start, one of the things I promoted was that WG1 of the Contact Group, as it was UK chaired, should use the IMO building as its HQ which was good for the IMO and good for the Contact Group. So we came together very quickly in 2010. You participated for the first time at this working group meeting? PH: Yes, it was a meeting of WG1 and it ran in here in London for quite a long time. Later it was moved out to the region after the first chair had moved on and basically one of the things he left behind was the idea that it should become more regional. What were your expectations for the first time you went to the working group meeting? PH: Well IMO at a policy level had some concerns about the Contact Group because it felt that the Contact Group was doing the work that IMO was mandated to do in terms of industry and in areas of maritime security. There was a feeling that some of the work of the Contact Group would overlap with the IMO as a body. My expectation as a capacity builder with a more defined job to do: that is, to build regional capacity to counter Somali piracy was different. The WG opened a lot of doors and made a lot of contacts, so I found it an excellent networking facility. For example, one of the very first meetings, if not the first that I went to, we made the contact with NATO that had, in six months, set up the … Continue reading

Interview with current chairman of CGPCS

In this interview, the current chairman of the CGPCS, Maciej Popowksi, from the EEAS explain what the Contact Group is and what the priorities for 2014 are.            

Reflections on four years’ work in the Contact Group. In Conversation with Donna Hopkins

In this interview Donna Hopkins, former chairman and one of the original initiators of the CGPCS discusses her experience with the group. She outlines how meetings are prepared and staged, provides advice for junior diplomats of how to prepare and act in such an informal setting and reflects on controversies and tensions in the group, as well as its institutional set up. The interview documents what significant work and resources are required to make the CGPCS work. The interview was conducted during a visit of Mrs. Donna Hopkins to Cardiff University, 15th of April 2014. A PDF copy of the interview is available via the following link: In conversation with Donna Hopkins Can you describe an average meeting of the Contact Group Plenary, what happens there, and how is the meeting prepared? The agenda for every Contact Group meeting has been pre-planned by a relatively small group of actors and it is agreed and disseminated beforehand, and over time, has agendas have developed a certain set of characteristics. There is a statement, an approbation that piracy off the coast of Somalia remains a problem that requires a concerted international effort to deal with. Then there will be statements by various high level actors saying that his or her institution, organization, or government is committed to this effort and why. Then the working group chairmen would each give overviews of what their working group had accomplished since the last plenary and a brief overview of their intentions for the work plan, and, since we created the Trust Fund, there is a report by the secretariat of the Trust Fund.Up until very recently each delegation was given a chance to make statements and we sat through dozens of pro forma scripted statements of why each government cared about the piracy problem. Finally, there would be a communique session when we essentially read out the communique and come to an agreed text. Towards the end there is a statement about when the next plenary would be, who would chair it, and what the outcomes should be. We conclude the plenary, finalize the meeting and then sometime hold a press conference. So it is a script that has varied over time and it generally goes from affirmation that piracy is still a problem, yes we need to still work on it, this is what everybody is doing, and this is what the communique says: what we are going to do going forward. Most of the substantial work occurred outside the plenary. What kind of substantial work is that? To phrase it differently how would you prepare for a meeting? Preparation by the plenary chairman is a very different thing compared to preparation for a national delegation. For the United States, if I was chairing the meeting, it took weeks and weeks’ worth of work to develop the agenda, get the agenda agreed, develop or collect food for thought papers or working papers, or ideas to draw reports out of different places and try to develop … Continue reading

Lessons Learned from the Hostage Support Programme

The Hostage Support Programme was born from the strong desire of those involved in Counter Piracy Capacity building, and the then Secretary General’s Special Representative for Somalia (SRSG), Dr Augustine Mahiga, to provide good offices support to the victims of Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia. This gap in our response was assessed to be particularly glaring given that so much international effort was directed at prosecuting the pirates themselves, and preserving their human rights, whilst none was focused upon assisting the hostages – the primary victims of this criminal activity. Initially, the programme was carried out as an unfunded activity jointly between UNPOS and UNODC. After several successful activities, most notably the repatriation of 14 Myanmar citizens, the programme attracted funding support from the Contact Group for Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) Trust Fund. The programme continued to be managed by UNPOS and UNODC until UNPOS was dissolved in May 2012. The programme now continues using the same staff on a contract basis, but managed by the UNODC Global Maritime Crime Programme in Vienna. This review was commissioned by UNODC Vienna to ensure that a single document captured the lessons learned from the first twelve months the programme under funding support from the CGPCS Trust Fund. The report identifies three key areas for the lessons learned project: 1) The authority for actors to negotiate with pirates, 2) Flexibility of funding for hostage support programmes, 3) The need to provide follow up services to the victims of piracy. During the rapid decline in successful attacks over the course of 2013, the number of ships and hostages held has declined. The remaining hostages are generally from piratings of vessels where the ship owners and insurers (if indeed there was insurance) have since become untraceable. This has left crews held hostage ashore where neither the ship owner nor insurer are willing or able to resolve the crisis, and the capacity of crew nationality states to respond is negligible. In certain cases this has left the Hostage Support Programme (HSP) as the only point of contact for the hostages, those holding the hostages, and the families. Whilst the UN and the HSP have laid clear boundaries so as to ensure we are not involved in ransom discussions with pirates, responsibility for the crew has fallen to the programme, and this has required the HSP team to seek novel approaches to humanitarian release. The second key issue has been funding, and there is clear evidence that the stated aims of the programme to provide direct support (such as medical aid) to hostages in captivity has been made significantly more difficult by the UN rules and regulations on procurement. A flexible funding pool that allows instant funding for flights, medical support and human information and assistance should be created for the current HSP, and considered during the initial set-up of any future HSP. The third area, linked to the issue of funding flexibility, in that it is quite clear that hostages held by pirates are victims … Continue reading

Lessons from the Prosecution of Pirates by OBP

Since 2005, there has been growing consensus and frequently recurring calls in the international community for the leaders, financiers, and land-based facilitators of modern maritime piracy to be prosecuted. There is broad recognition (at least in concept and rhetoric) that successfully prosecuting the low-level skiff pirates, while part of the equation, will ultimately have limited impact on ending or substantially reducing piracy, at least in terms of the law enforcement and prosecution components of national and international counter-piracy efforts. Indeed, one of the four priorities of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia for 2013 and beyond is “[t]o strengthen and focus law enforcement efforts to disrupt pirate networks ashore, including by establishing effective information exchanges among prosecutors, investigators and private industry” Yet to date, with the exception of the conviction of two pirate negotiators (which might be considered mid-level management) and the recent arrest of pirate leader Mohamed Abdi Hassan (better known as “Afweyne”) in Belgium, there have been no prosecutions of higher- or top-level pirate leaders, financiers, or facilitators. While approximately 1,200 pirates have been, or are being prosecuted in various parts of the world (primarily in Somalia, 402; Kenya, 164; Yemen, 129; and Seychelles, 124),2 almost none of them can be considered anything more than low-level skiff pirates. Why is that the case, and what lessons can the international community and national authorities learn from our experience fighting East African piracy, in fighting piracy elsewhere, or indeed dealing with other international and transnational crime? The full report can be read here.

SAMI and the CGPCS

by the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI) Recognizing that the CGPCS is fundamental for improving the relations between the maritime security industry and the international community, since its creation SAMI has attempted to play an active role in the group. This was initially not easy. SAMI first attended the CGPCS as a member of the Marshall Islands delegation in November 2011 but we were not initially welcomed. Although the then Chairman of the CGPCS, Henk Swarttouw was keen to get us involved he could not formally invite us to be a member. Our other strong ally of the time Chris Holtby of the UK FCO, Chair of Working Group 1 . As we didn’t have a voice and our limited budget was very stretched we didn’t attend any CGPCS meetings unless they were at the IMO in the UK, as part of the MI Delegation. In November 2012 Ambassador Moon from Korea reached out and invited us to attend the WG3 Meetings in Korea in Feb 2013 but our travel budget could not stretch that far with other commitments already in the diary so we had to decline. SAMI had been speaking to Donna Hopkins of the US State Department for some time about maritime security matters and the evolution of the private maritime security industry and when she took on the Chair of the CGPCS she made it quite clear that SAMI should be involved and we were invited to the CGPCS Counter Piracy Week in Djibouti as a delegation in our own right. The CEO of SAMI therefore attended and whilst we were there that she referred to SAMI and the private maritime security industry as “part of the maritime industry”. We are now part of the CGPCS and we think our voice is being listened to. SAMI CEO (Peter Cook) will be attending the session in New York next month. In summary the recognition of how important the contribution of SAMI can be to improve the coordination and steering of counter-piracy came late. Core Lessons Learned It is important to organize the industry in a way that it can speak with one voice in international fora It is not necessarily easy to get access for the industry in a forum such as the CGPCS, even though it tries to be inclusive. Budget restriction can provide a core hindrance for the effective participation of stakeholders. Most crucially, it is important for a mechanism such as the CGPCS, that “all parties” should be involved from an early stage. A detailed reflection on the work of SAMI, its evolution and the role it plays in regulating the industry is available here: The Evolution of SAMI and the CGPCS

Lessons from WG1

by Lt.Cdr. Manuel VERDINI, Italian Defence General Staff I want to highlight those that, in my opinion, based on an experience of two Working Group 1 meetings, are the three major merits and strengths of the CGPCS:  firstly, it has gathered around a table numerous actors of the international scene committed in the Somali theater. This has led to a direct confrontation that not only enabled the sharing of information, but also the development of new ideas aimed at solving the piracy issue in a holistic manner; secondly, it has always placed the emphasis on the Somali ownership by directly involving representatives of the Somali regional realities (Transitional Federal Government and then Federal Government, Somaliland, Puntland and Galmudug) to acquire their point of view, to know their needs and, at the same time, to let them to know international community’s intentions; at least, it is concretely engaged in deconfliction of the many international initiatives for Capacity Building with the Capacity Building Coordination Group (CBCG). To conclude, I consider that the model of the CGPCS may be kept in mind in the future to handle new crisis situations not only related to maritime security, but also to a broader spectrum of issues.

ICS Identifies Lessons from Somali Piracy

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the principal global trade association for shipowners, has issued a paper drawing upon the international shipping industry’s experience of Somali-based piracy during the period 2007 to 2013. “The intention is to identify lessons learned in order to shape future policy responses, wherever in the world they might be needed,” explained ICS Secretary General, Peter Hinchliffe. The ICS paper has been submitted to the International Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (which was established in response to a United Nations Security Council Resolution) and by all accounts the ICS paper has been well received by governments. ICS has produced its paper following a dramatic reduction in the number of successful attacks against ships by Somali pirates, currently at a five-year low thanks to the combined success of sustained compliance with industry Best Management Practices (BMP), the use of private maritime security companies, the activity of military assets and new capacity building initiatives ashore. Despite this, it remains the case that the pirates are active and retain the capacity to attack far into the Indian Ocean. ICS therefore continues to emphasise that it is premature to conclude that the crisis is over, with seafarers still held hostage in Somalia, some of whom have now been in captivity for three years. In 2013, there were at least 13 reported incidents involving Somali pirates including two hijackings. ICS stresses that adherence to the industry’s latest Best Management Practices (BMP 4) and, where necessary, the deployment of private armed guards, continue to be vital self-protective measures. The maintenance of current levels of military protection provided by a global coalition of governments in the Indian Ocean is also considered to be vital. The ICS paper explains the significant challenges the shipping industry has faced in responding to the crisis in the Indian Ocean, which escalated dramatically in 2007. This included getting the initial attention of governments and making them appreciate the scale of the crisis that was making a vast and strategically vital area of the Indian Ocean, including major trade lanes, a virtual ‘no go’ area to merchant shipping. It also involved raising awareness in the mainstream news media, and then seeking to maintain this throughout the course of the crisis.The ICS paper also highlights the importance of clarifying the rights and obligations of sovereign nations to address piracy (which were complicated by the breakdown of Somalia as a functioning State) and of the need to engage with military authorities and to persuade them that the prevention of piracy/hostage taking has a most important strategic and humanitarian function that should not be dismissed as mere ‘low level’ law enforcement. “It was particularly important to foster an understanding that protection against pirate attacks was a shared responsibility in which both the military and the industry have to play their parts,” said Peter Hinchliffe. The ICS paper also explores the challenges of: Developing and disseminating appropriate and acceptable Best Management Practice (BMP) recommendations on preventative measures to be taken by shipping companies, … Continue reading

Burden-sharing Multi-level Governance: A Study of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.

This study co-authored by a team of the advocacy organization Oceans Beyond Piracy comprised of Danielle A. Zach, D. Conor Seyle, and Jens Vestergaard Madsen outlines the history of the CGPCS and discusses its evolution as a governance mechanism. The study draws on a range of interviews with participants in the CGPCS. Read the full paper here.

Prosecuting Pirates: The Contact Group on Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia, Governance and International Law

This paper authored by Douglas Guilfoyle was originally published in 2013 in the journal Global Policy 4 (1): 73–79. Drawing on a reflection of his own participation in Working Group 2 of the CGPCS Guilfoyle discusses the decentralised nature of the response to Somali piracy and the role of WG2 as a mechanism for coordinating piracy prosecutions. The article reviews the applicable international law and available options. It suggests that WG2 has had a discernible influence in promoting the decentralised use of national courts over the creation of a stand-alone international piracy court. It then reflects on WG2 as an example of a ‘new governance’ coordination mechanism.

External Information Sharing in Support of NATO Counter-Piracy Operations

This study by NATO’s Joint Analysis and Lessons Learned Centre was published in 2011. The study focuses on the importance of Information sharing and Maritime Situational Awareness. It discusses by which mechanisms information can be shared between naval actors, between military actors and intelligence agencies and criminal investigators such as Interpol. The full study is available here. 

The New Public Face of the Contact Group,

This comment piece authored by Christian Bueger was originally published in October 2011 on the Blog. In the comment Bueger discusses the Contact Group in the light of whether it is on the route to institutionalization. Taking the creation of the virtual secreteriat and website as a starting point, this is one of the first analyses of the CGPCS from the perspective of global governance. Read the full blog here.