Godollo, Hungary – Asian and European countries, including Greece, have agreed to cooperate more closely to tackle piracy off the coast of Somalia, which has been a particular problem for Greek-owned ships.
In a statement issued at the 10th Asia-Europe Foreign Ministers (ASEM) in Godollo, near Budapest in Hungary, the 48 members of ASEM described the frequent attacks on vessels in the Gulf of Aden as “a major security threat” to international maritime safety.
Piracy is estimated to cost shipping companies up to $12 billion a year, as insurance costs skyrocket.
While agreeing that a key to tackling the problem is to support, under the auspices of the United Nations, measures to establish law and order in Somalia and to encourage sustained economic development in the region, the ASEM partners, who comprise 60 percent of the world’s trade, agreed that they should work together to tackle the actual practice of piracy.
“Emphasis should be laid on the development of a long-term approach and on support for regional cooperation frameworks, including in the area of capacity-building through concrete activities such as information-sharing, training of officials and holding joint naval exercises as and when appropriate,” the ministers’ statement said.
The European Naval Force, Navfor, is currently patrolling the area but activity from gangs remains high. A Greek-owned freighter with 23 seamen on board was seized just last month. As of May, pirates in Somalia were thought to be holding more than 25 vessels. Over 400 sailors are currently being held hostage, the highest number since 2007.
Piracy has become a multi-million industry for the gangs, who demand large ransoms for the release of the vessels they seize.
In the most recent incident, Somali pirates released a Greek-owned, Cyprus-flagged ship for a reported ransom of $6 million. The MV Eagle, a 52,163-deadweight-ton merchant vessel and its crew of 24 Filipinos that was seized in January about 500 miles south-west of Oman, while it was en route to India from Jordan.
The theme of this year’s ASEM meeting, which concluded on Tuesday, was “non-traditional security challenges,” which energy security, climate change, growth and poverty reduction.