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Wednesday, 29 May 2013

”Somali style” pirates off Nigeria, “Chinese reports on fishing volumes wrong” and the Canadian Navy planes for taking control of their long north coast

We all know that shipping and the oceans must be seen in a global context, our national borders don’t matter much. If a nation isn’t able to control its waters others will use them to their will. As we have seen and are seeing out of Somalia in terms of pirates. The pirates of Somalia led to an unprecedented international engagement (and the political reasons for that can of course be debated).

It is unlikely that the type of international focus that today is put off Somalia will be applied to more than one place at the time and even that is probably wishful thinking. The rise of piracy off western Africa is therefore extra troublesome as the international focus still is on pirates out of Somalia (see also post from November 26, 2012 Better times off Somalia, but tougher for the decision maker!). The piracy off western Africa has its own specific traits (with a higher focus on the cargo rather than the crew and ship), but now there are also reports on “Somali style” piracy with the intent to keep the crew (and ship) for ransom (for example the reports about the tanker MT Matrix I). This could lead to a faster increase in incidents and a need for new security measures, but still with completely different conditions as compared to piracy off Somalia. One reason for the difference is that the national control of the waters off western Africa is far better than the control off Somalia.
Control of waters is however difficult as can be seen in the news on were the Chinese fishing fleet actually catches the fish (see for example Chinese fishing fleet in African waters reports 9% of catch to UN). This is of course a very important question in regards to natural resources and not primarily a maritime security issue. But fishing disputes lead to maritime risks and also affects relations between nations. There is therefore probably a need for better control of the waters off eastern Africa; especially I imagine several African nations wanting a bigger piece of the fishing off their own coast.
But also elsewhere nations are putting in extra effort to take better control of their waters. I have earlier written about Russia and their interest for their arctic waters, but also Canada is preparing for new Artic challenges and to take control of their northern coast as the reduction of the ice makes the waters feasible to visit (at least part of the year). Canada is commissioning new naval vessels specifically for this purpose and I imagine they want to make sure that they secure control of their waters before anyone else does it.

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