24 February 2006

Somalia: Hub to Fight Sea Piracy to Be Revived

Nairobi — A regional maritime coordination centre in Mombasa will be revived to help fight piracy in the Horn of Africa.

The centre would initiate and maintain a worldwide navigation warning system for ships off the coast of Somalia, Transport minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere told a meeting of agencies and states affected by piracy.

"The system is vital in guiding ships sailing in the high risk areas, to eliminate the likelihood of their falling into the hands of pirates," he said.

And the Search and Rescue Centre, which is under construction, would be in operation by May, to help boost the fight against piracy, said the minister.

The meeting being held at the Nyali Beach Hotel is expected to form a task force to look into ways of fighting piracy in the region.

At the meeting are delegates from the USA, Britain, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, Bangladesh, India, the International Maritime Organisation, and the World Food Programme.

"These attacks are a threat to the economies of eastern and southern Africa and the landlocked countries in the region," said Mr Mwakwere.

The Somalia Transitional Federal Government called for help to fight piracy, saying the country could not patrol the more than 300-kilometre coastline.

They are also a threat to the Indian Ocean States as they affect a major sea-lane to Europe and the Far East, he added.

Somalia waters are the second riskiest in the world after the Malacca Straits, with reported cases rising to 48 last year according to available figures.

Mr Mwakwere said incidences of armed robbery and piracy against ships in the region were a major concern as the aim behind the attacks is to obtain ransom money used to purchase arms.

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