A Shared Approach for Shared Challenges: Integrating and Enhancing International Responses and Public-Private Partnerships

Thomas P. Kelly
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
Remarks at UAE-Sponsored Conference
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
June 28, 2012

Good afternoon. It is my great pleasure to be here in Dubai and to speak to you at this excellent conference. The UAE has been a real leader in the effort to combat piracy off the Horn of Africa. I want to thank my Emirati friends in the UAE government and DP World for sponsoring this event.

Piracy off the coast of Somalia is an issue of critical importance to my country. The United States supports a multilateral approach that views piracy as a shared challenge. Piracy is most effectively addressed through broad, coordinated, and comprehensive international efforts. We consider the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia essential in enabling interaction between states and regional and international organizations on piracy.


Within the Contact Group framework, the United States encourages the private sector to contribute to the Trust Fund to Support Initiatives of States Countering Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. Companies can help by providing money or expertise to a general fund or to designated projects. Building a private-public partnership through the Trust Fund is an excellent way for industry to help defray the expenses associated with prosecution of suspected pirates. Contributions to the Trust Fund also support a range of activities for implementing the Contact Group’s objectives in countering all aspects of piracy.


When it comes to vessel security, the U.S. government requires U.S.-flagged vessels sailing in designated high-risk waters to take additional security measures. We’re concerned that many commercial ships traveling through pirate-infested waters have yet to implement industry-developed Best Management Practices. Approximately twenty percent of vessels do not take proper anti-piracy security precautions. It’s no surprise that these vessels account for the overwhelming number of successfully pirated ships. Proper security protection for only eighty percent of the international commercial maritime fleet is not enough. It must be one-hundred percent, or piracy in the Indian Ocean will continue.

We recognize that, even when fully implemented, Best Management Practices do not make a vessel pirate-proof. That is why the United States supports the maritime industry’s use of Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel, known by the acronym PCASP.

Best Management Practices and PCASP are not an either/or proposition. They should be used together, tailored to the specific needs of particular ships and transit plans. We encourage all ship owners and operators to use Best Management Practices, including the responsible use of PCASP, for all vessels transiting high-risk waters. It is also important that port and coastal States develop appropriate regulations to allow for PCASP and firearms to travel through their country and be safely and efficiently embarked or debarked at their port facilities.


The U.S. government is also acutely aware of the dilemma that ship-owners face when ships and sailors are taken hostage. While the safety of the crew is critical, we must all acknowledge that submitting to ransom demands only increases the likelihood that future crews will be taken hostage. The United States has a long tradition of opposing ransom payments, and we work diligently to discourage or minimize them. Every ransom paid further institutionalizes hostage-taking for profit and promotes its expansion as a criminal enterprise. We strongly encourage flag States, ship-owners, and private parties involved in hostage situations to seek assistance from their appropriate government crisis management specialists. The United States welcomed the United Kingdom’s initiative to create an international task force to discourage the payment of ransoms as well as prevent the illicit flow of money and its corrosive effects. We are participating in this task force and doing everything in our power to make it more effective.


Another important element of the United States’ counter-piracy approach involves enhancing the capacity of states – particularly those in the region – to prosecute and incarcerate suspected pirates, and to provide for economic alternatives to piracy. Expanding the capacity to prosecute and incarcerate pirates is a challenge that the international community, including the governments of flag states and ship-owners, will have to address.


At the heart of the U.S. counter-piracy strategy to counter-piracy is identifying and apprehending the criminal conspirators who lead, manage, and finance the pirate enterprise. To that end, we are connecting law enforcement communities, intelligence agencies, financial experts, and our international partners. This promotes information sharing and develops information that can be used in court to prosecute pirate conspirators and disrupt their operations.


An important part of disrupting the pirate network is the Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecutions Intelligence Coordination Centre in Seychelles. The United States is examining how we can best support and participate in RAPPICC, which we expect will prove successful in facilitating the capture and prosecution of the financiers, investors and ringleaders of Somali piracy.


The final important piece in the puzzle involves communicating to the international community and to Somalis in both Somalia and the diaspora. Our messaging strives to deglamorize and ostracize the pirates, and show how piracy violates cultural norms and destroys traditional Somali values and society. At the same time, we balance the message by communicating the economic development efforts the international community is undertaking to create alternatives to piracy for Somalis.

The United States supports future messaging workshops with the maritime industry though the Contact Group’s Working Group 4, as well as our collaborative effort with the Republic of Korea and the UAE to enhance the Contact Group’s website and other social media outlets.


All of the policies I have described help us to counter piracy. But the only long-term solution to piracy is the re-establishment of stability, responsive law enforcement, and adequate governance in Somalia. To that end, I am very pleased the representatives of the Somali Regional Authorities participating in this conference. For our part, the United States continues to support the Djibouti Peace Process, the Transitional Federal Government, and other regional authorities working toward these same goals.

Piracy is a good example of the kind of transnational challenges we will increasingly face in the 21st century. Confronting these challenges requires us to be flexible and innovative. It also requires agencies across governments to work together so that they bring every tool they have to bear – including diplomatic, military, law enforcement, economic, and intelligence assets – to address the issue.

There is not just one single thing we can do, or just one policy we can implement, that will end piracy. Reducing and mitigating the threat posed by piracy will require long, hard work. But clearly, our multifaceted response is having a positive impact. As pirates continue to adapt and evolve, we need to stay vigilant and continue our efforts. The security of the region and the global economy depend on it.