20 Feb 12. Armed guards rethink needed following fishermen deaths? Marine safety experts have renewed their call for World Leaders to reconsider the use of armed guards onboard commercial ships following the tragic shooting of Indian fishermen by Italian Marines. Last week Italian Marines guarding the oil tanker, the Enrica Lexie, shot dead two Indian fishermen in the Indian Ocean they mistakenly believed were pirates. The deaths come just days before World leaders are due to discuss the issue of sea piracy at the London Conference on Somalia. UK-based marine safety experts, BCB International Ltd, are calling on World leaders to rethink the self-protection measures used by commercial ships to ward off attacks from pirates. BCB International’s Marine Projects Manager, Jonathan Delf, said: “We have been warning for some time about the dangers linked with the used of armed guards on commercial vessels. The vast majority of armed guards protecting commercial vessels are extremely well trained and highly professional; but there can be no room for human error when lethal force is used. Armed teams onboard civilian commercial vessels need to be provided with the right equipment to enable them to do the very difficult task they face. The London Somalia Conference is an opportunity for the International Community to prevent the further unnecessary loss of life. We call on World Leaders to cast their net wider by bringing forward new non-lethal protective measures like air pressurized launchers as part of the deterrence mix. These devices can help to create a layered and proportional defence around a vulnerable vessel.”
23 Feb 12. Somalia: London Conference and Counter-Piracy. The London Conference on Somalia (23 Feb 12), attended by 55 delegations, agreed: “to inject new momentum into the political process; to strengthen AMISON [African Union Mission in Somalia] and help Somalia develop its own security forces; to help stability at a local level; and to step up action to tackle pirates and terrorists”. The UK signed a Memorandum of Understanding allowing the RN to transfer suspected pirates to Tanzania for prosecution. A similar agreement with Mauritius is anticipated, by early June 2012. The UK announced earlier (21 Feb 12) that it is also to provide the Director and £550,000 funding for the construction of the Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecutions Intelligence Co-ordination Centre in the Seychelles.
Comment: A briefing on the EU’s counter-piracy Operation ATALANTA was held (20 Feb 12) at the EU NAVFOR HQ in Northwood. Some 25 ships from the EU, NATO and the Combined Maritime Forces (Combined Task Force 151) currently patrol 3.2 million square miles of ocean around the Horn of Africa, which the EU NAVFOR Chief of Staff likened to “policing Europe with 25 police cars”. The RN confirmed (24 Feb 12) that HMS WESTMINSTER has taken up station with the Combined Maritime Forces. Presenting the London Conference Final Communiqué, the UK Prime Minister declined to be drawn on the question of Western military involvement in Somalia although the head of the Somali Transitional Federal Government said that we would “welcome targeted air strikes”.(Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 12/09, 25 Feb 12)