Maputo — The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is monitoring the situation of maritime piracy in the waters of the regional bloc, in order to ensure that piracy does not have a severe impact on southern African economies.
According to SADC Executive Secretary Tomas Salomao, speaking to reporters in Maputo, SADC member states are also involved in joint military exercises to prepare their naval forces to repel any possible pirate attack.
Salomao added that at a recent meeting in South Africa of the SADC Defence and Security Troika the question of piracy was at the top of the agenda. They had looked in particular at the impact of piracy on the economy of Mauritius, an island member of SADC which is heavily dependent on tourism.
There has been a serious decline in the number of tourists visiting Mauritius, and this is blamed on the fear of Somali pirate attacks among potential tourists.
Salomao believed that the joint military exercises held by Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania will help reduce the threat to SADC waters posed by piracy.
The most serious pirate raid in the SADC region occurred in December 2010, when a pirate gang hijacked a Mozambican fishing vessel, the "Vega 5" off the coast of the southern province of Inhambane.
The "Vega 5" was then taken to Somalia, where it was transformed into a pirate mother ship, and used to attack merchant shipping in the Arabian Sea.
In March 2011, an Indian navy anti-piracy patrol intercepted and sank the "Vega 5". 12 Mozambican and one Indonesian crew members were recued but a further seven Mozambicans and two Indonesians were missing, believed drowned.
Salomao said that an improvement in security and stability in Somalia would help reduce the threat from piracy. He hoped that consolidating the internationally recognised Somali government will remove the fertile ground that the pirates currently enjoy.
However, the government's write does not run in Puntland, the semi-autonomous region, where the pirates have their bases.