NBP training

How will Canada respond to new developments?

The spectacular increase in number and importance of the ships seized by Somali pirates now rates many daily commentaries in the press.  Such increased attention paid to their actions and the mounting economic consequences has spurred the United Nations into action.

On Tuesday, December 2nd, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1846.  This resolution cites the Suppression of Unlawful Acts (SUA) clause from the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the safety of Maritime Navigation, to which Canada is a signatory of both the 1988 Convention and Protocol.

Admiral Thad Allen, Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, describes the significance of UNSCR 1846 thusly:

SUA establishes a framework whereby masters of ships may deliver suspected SUA offenders to a coastal State Party and the coastal State Party is obliged to accept custody and extradite or prosecute unless it can articulate why the Convention is not applicable. Leveraging States SUA obligations in conjunction with existing international law against piracy provides an effective legal framework to deliver an "endgame." We have worked for several months now with our partners on the Joint Staff, through the "interagency process", and with our international partners to pursue this outcome. This is definitely a step in the right direction and I will provide updates in the future.

You can read Admiral Allen’s full message here.

Meanwhile, the International Maritime Organization has called for a policy on arming merchant ships.  While discouraging the arming of merchant seafarers, IMO secretary-general Efthimios Mitropoulos said flag states should work with owners of ships flying their flag to consider in what circumstances ships would be allowed to carry armed professional security teams.  There is some concern from port states about accepting ships that carry such security teams.  It seems clear, however, that conventional measures to deter piracy through ‘sea control operations’ are largely ineffective off the Somali coast.

Canada, whose naval vessels have already participated in anti-piracy operations, could soon find a very different scenario when its warships return to the region.  UNSCR 1846 will oblige intervention beyond the previously passive measures undertaken in the past.  Beyond this, armed security parties, which could be uniformed or not, may be present onboard merchant vessels to be boarded and inspected.  This will significantly complicate matters and increase the danger factor to Canadian sailors, from simple misunderstanding due to language barriers, to accidental discharge of weapons, and a myriad of other scenarios.

The ‘piracy problem’ has now reached a critical threshold, one that will present many new challenges for Canadian naval personnel.