An international agreement that has been instrumental in repressing piracy and armed robbery against ships in the western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden is set to significantly broaden its scope.
Signatories to the Djibouti Code of Conduct have agreed to work toward extending its remit to address other illicit maritime activity that threatens safety and security in the region, such as marine terrorism, environmental crimes, human trafficking and Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
National focal points for the code, which was adopted under the auspices of the IMO in 2009, have adopted a resolution expressing concern at the increasing risks from transnational organized crimes at sea and other threats to maritime safety and security in the region. They agreed to encourage information sharing on all illicit activities at sea.
Training and other capacity-building activities implemented under the auspices of the Djibouti Code of Conduct have been credited with contributing to the reduction of piracy in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, alongside the efforts of merchant ships to implement IMO guidance and best management practices, naval forces continuing to deter and disrupt pirate activities and States continuing to prosecute suspected pirates and increasing their maritime law-enforcement capabilities.
But the focal points recognized that piracy in the region has merely been suppressed and its root causes have yet to be addressed. They agreed that, nonetheless, there is now a window of opportunity for IMO Member States in the region to implement capacity-building programs to prevent a resurgence of piracy and to address wider maritime security issues, as a basis for sustainable development of the maritime sector.
The focal points were meeting this week (November 11-12) in the newly-completed Djibouti Regional Training Center, which was formally opened by Moussa Ahmed Hassan, Djibouti’s Minister of Equipment and Transport, on Thursday, November 12. The Djibouti Regional Training Center will play a key role in regional capacity-building initiatives under the Code of Conduct.
IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu, speaking by video message during the ceremony, encouraged the Government of Djibouti to be imaginative in its use of the new building and to be proactive in maximizing its potential, for the benefit of the whole region. The center could be used as a venue for wider port, maritime, law-enforcement or indeed any other training, conferences and meetings, as well as being a center of excellence for regional maritime security training, he said.
“This impressive new center will be a vital component in the provision of maritime security and other training in the Gulf of Aden and Western Indian Ocean area and fully supports IMO’s 2015 World Maritime Day theme: “Maritime education and training”. It should be an asset to Djibouti and to the region for many years to come,” Sekimizu said.
The national focal points meeting also approved the 2016 plan for regional training for Djibouti Code of Conduct countries.
Construction of the Djibouti Regional Training Center was funded by Japan, through the Djibouti Code Trust Fund, with equipment provided by Denmark and the Republic of Korea.
IMO continues to support Member States to implement the Djibouti Code of Conduct through its Integrated Technical Cooperation Program (ITCP) and through the Djibouti Code Trust Fund. It also maintains a presence in the region, focused on the code, with two staff members based in Nairobi, Kenya, whose primary role is training.
The opening ceremony was also attended by Chris Trelawny, Special Adviser to the IMO Secretary-General; His Excellency Tatsuo Arai, Ambassador of Japan to the Republic of Djibouti; His Excellency Joseph Silva, European Union Ambassador to Djibouti, Hassan Darar Houffaneh, Minister of Defense of Djibouti; Ali Mirah Chehem Daoud, Director of Maritime Affairs of Djibouti; Mina Houssein Doualeh, Director of the Djibouti Regional Training Center; as well as senior government officials from Djibouti. Also present were representatives from Somalia and from Djibouti Code of Conduct signatories, donor countries and international training partners.