Posted by: africanpressorganization | 6 November 2009

Landmark US-Seychelles cooperation for anti-piracy fight

 


 

 

Landmark US-Seychelles cooperation for anti-piracy fight

 

 

VICTORIA, Mahé, November 6, 2009/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Seychelles and the United States of America have stated their firm commitment to the coordinated effort in the combat against piracy in the western Indian Ocean.

 

This follows the arrival of several US military MQ-9 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles(UAV) aircraft in Seychelles, that will be used for joint anti-piracy surveillance programme, at the request of the Government of Seychelles. This landmark cooperation follows the signing of a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in July 2009 with the USA.

 

The US military invited journalists and members of the High Level Committee on Piracy to view the planes this morning.

 

The Head of the High Level Committee on Piracy, Minister Joel Morgan has said that with the UAV’s capabilities, there is yet another clear message being sent out to the pirates: that no criminal activities will go undetected.

 

“This UAV programme specifically, will be able to help monitor large areas and detect the presence of pirates who operate in small boats which are often difficult to spot.  This surveillance activity will complement and reinforce the other military assistance we are already receiving.  This cooperation is a concrete example of the commitment of the US to improve maritime safety and security in the Western Indian Ocean.  This assistance to the people of Seychelles is very well appreciated, ” said Minister Morgan.

 

A statement was also made on behalf of the US Embassy in Mauritius, by the Public Affairs Officer Mr. Craig White.

 

 

 

 

FULL Statement made by Minister Joel Morgan, head of the High Level Committee on Piracy 06.10.09

 

With the progression of acts of piracy from the Gulf of Aden and the Horn of Africa down to the Western Indian Ocean, the Seychelles has become threatened both by the physical acts of taking ships hostage in our EEZ and also by the economic impact of piracy on the maritime sector including merchant shipping, fisheries, cruises and the super yacht industry.

 

The War on piracy has to be fought on many fronts; both nationally and internationally, but ultimately, it is the political resolution of the problems in Somalia that will bring about an end to this issue of piracy , which if left unchecked, has to potential to create a serious level of insecurity in the entire Western Indian Ocean.

 

Along with the international community and our regional partners, we realize that the problem of piracy is complex and requires a wide range of resources to combat it.  This includes diplomacy, military capability, surveillance, information gathering, human and financial resources.

 

Seychelles has only a limited national capacity to combat the criminal acts of piracy.  With 1.3 million square km of ocean as part of our Exclusive Economic Zone, the challenge that we face is evident. 

 

It is for this reason that President Michel called on the international community to come to our assistance and we are pleased to note, that in a relatively short space of time, our calls for assistance have been answered and we have established Seychelles as the hub for anti-piracy surveillance and anti-piracy actions. We strongly believe that the joint efforts with the international forces working with us are key to curbing piracy in our region.

 

Negotiations have taken place which has lead to the signing of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in July 2009 with the USA.  This agreement was soon afterwards ratified by our National Assembly.  A Memorandum of Understanding has also been signed with the UK and A SOFA has also been signed with France in September this year. We are also in the final stages of signing a status of forces agreement with the EU. We are currently in discussions with NATO for a similar agreement.

 

On the military front we have benefited from naval patrols from several countries and forces such as the US, EUNAVFOR, NATO, India, France, Russia, UK and others.  The presence of these naval forces has been of great assistance to the fishing fleets and merchant shipping operating in our waters and in the area.  Port Victoria has welcomed fleets from more than a dozen nationalities and is ever willing to be a port of call for all these friendly nations united in combathing this threat.  Seychelles has also allowed fishing vessels to carry armed personnel for defence purposes subject to complying with our laws.

 

In this all out war against piracy the use of sophisticated technology is crucial as the ocean is a vast area to control and protect. 

 

This UAV programme specifically, will be able to help monitor large areas and detect the presence of pirates who operate in small boats which are often difficult to spot.  This surveillance activity will complement and reinforce the other military assistance we are already receiving.  This cooperation is a concrete example of the commitment of the US to improve maritime safety and security in the Western Indian Ocean.  This assistance to the people of Seychelles is very well appreciated.

 

This surveillance activity from the US drones will enable a great amount of information to be obtained and this information will help in tracking the very movements of the pirates.  This will also assist in alerting passing vessels of the presence of such danger.  Intelligence gathering is a necessary tool in the fight against crime and it is essential that all stakeholders pool their resources together. 

 

It is to be noted that the surveillance activity of the US drones will also benefit other countries of the region and further afield as it must not be forgotten that the Seychelles EEZ is close to main shipping lanes crossing the Indian Ocean.

 

Seychelles has already played critical roles in facilitating the flow of information among friendly forces united in the fight against piracy.

With the UAV’s capabilities, there is yet another clear message being sent out that no criminal activities will go undetected.

 

Seychelles is a committed partner with the US, the EU and the International Community in this fight which is not only a threat to its security and economic development but is also  as I said, a destabilizing factor in the region. 

 

As a serious and responsible member of the UN, the Seychelles is playing its role and doing its share as far its resources allow it combating these totally unacceptable and reprehensible acts which cannot be allowed to be perpetrated. On the diplomatic front we have sensitized the international community in various international forums such as, at the UN, the EU, COMESA, SADC and the Indian Ocean Commission.  Only last month we hosted a Sub Regional meeting to progress the implementation of the Djibouti Code of Conduct.  This is a follow-up of the High-Level meeting which was convened by the IMO in Djibouti in January this year.

 

I take this opportunity to categorically reject the allegations made by some irresponsible journalists that Seychelles is being used as a hub for activities by the pirates and I invite the international media to come here and to see for themselves what actions are being undertaken by the Seychelles Government to combat piracy.

 

I would like to end by expressing my sincere thanks on behalf of the Government of Seychelles to the United States Government for all its assistance and collaboration provided as exemplified by the launch of the UAV surveillance programme here today.

 

 

SOURCE 

Republic of Seychelles – Office of the President


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