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Piracy threatening Sadc trade

Apr 13 2012 13:08
James-Brent Styan

Cape Town - Piracy is causing havoc to trade routes along the east coast of Africa and the threat is fast moving closer to South African waters, Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu warned this week.

"In 2006 pirates took 186 people hostage and held them for ransom.

"By 2010 the figure had increased to 1016," she said at the opening of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium in Cape Town on Wednesday.

The heads and representatives of the navies of 89 countries gathered in Cape Town to discuss options to combat the scourge of piracy.

This year's event focused on regional maritime security threats.

Sisulu said maritime security is fundamentally linked to the development and economic prosperity of African countries.

She said she was concerned about the range of illegal and criminal activities burdening Africa's shores and endangering economies that revolve around the oceans.

"Approximately 90% of trade destined for Africa is transported by sea.

"This percentage is higher within intra-African trade. It is within this context that you will understand how tangible our vulnerability is."

Sisulu said piracy is rapidly moving to Southern African Development Community (Sadc) nations.

"Tanzania has reported 57 attacks by pirates in its territorial waters between February 2011 and February 2012. This points to the relocation of piracy to the Sadc oceans."

Rear Admiral Robert Higgs, chief of staff of the SA Navy, said the greatest lesson is that cooperation is a necessity to combat piracy.

"No one is in this fight alone and no one nation has the means to go it alone."

Delegates warned that while cooperation is critical, nations must retain sovereignity over their coastal waters.

"This was one of the issues raised," Higgs said.

He said nations in Africa need rapid growth of their naval capabilities.

"Their resources are being plundered and there's not much they can do about it. This is why cooperation is essential."

The South African Navy already has a vessel patrolling the waters from South Africa to Tanzania.

South Africa recently signed a trilateral agreement with Mozambique and Tanzania on further cooperation.

South Africa has the only navy with the means to do deep water patrolling.

Sisulu said countries must act together to combat maritime insecurity, and that collective cooperation would be mutually beneficial in obtaining solutions to regional maritime security.

She also said there needs to be a focus not only on addressing piracy but also its root causes, such as ongoing instability and poverty in nations pirates originate from.

This sentiment was agreed upon by other delegates.

The chief of the Iranian navy, Rear Admiral Habiballah Sayyari, said people often revert to piracy out of desperation.

"It's no use throwing water out of a leaking boat with a bucket. You need to fix the hole in the boat," Sayyari said.

trade  |  piracy  |  sadc


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