MAURITIANS ON THE MOVE : Shift in U.S. policy could cause increased piracy in Indian Ocean

A newly-released White Paper published by a maritime firm in the U.K. says that a shift in U.S. policy will likely lead to a resurgence of piracy East of the Suez and in the Indian Ocean within the next 18 months.
This report, published by Dryad Maritime, a maritime intelligence company dealing with piracy, terrorism and other maritime crimes and threats, should be of special interest to Mauritius, which has made maritime security a top priority and has agreed to detain and prosecute Somali pirates captured in Indian Ocean. Twelve Somalis charged with piracy were transferred to Mauritius last January and are still awaiting trial.
Published April 7, the White Paper says that the United States has shifted its foreign policy focus to the Asia-Pacific region and to Iran, and as a consequence, "it's just a matter of time before western navies begin withdrawing warships that have been so successful in suppressing piracy off the Somali coast." Also driving this trend are new developments in U.S. energy production. With America expected to become a net exporter of energy for the first time by 2020, the United States will have less interest in Gulf oil or threats to its supply, the report said.
Although piracy hit its lowest level in six years in 2013, due largely to the presence of NATO and European Union navies, the piracy threat still persists because Somalia remains "largely a lawless and ungoverned space," the report said.
David Hunkin, Dryad Maritime's Commercial Director, predicts that withdrawal of these warships form the area would leave commercial vessels transiting Africa's eastern coast vulnurable to hijacks."With no convoys and no rescue forces, the commercial shipping industry could be left to fend for itself," according to Dryad.
He said governments and international policymakers have about 18 months to develop methods to deal with the void in protection once the warships leave and protect the international shipping lanes from pirate attacks. Many commercial shipping lines have already taken their own security measures by deploying armed security agents to watch over the ship and crew. But Dryad advises caution in ramping up private security forces. "The private maritime security became the new gold rush for former soldiers frustred with earnings dwindling in both Iraq and Afghanistan," Dryad said. "But most lack the experience and skills required to solve this complex multi-dimensional maritime problem."
Maritime security off the coast of Africa continues to be a top concern for both the European Union, the United States and Africa. Earlier this month, EU security officials held a meeting in Brussels to examine maritime threats to Africa. Mauritius was one of the participating countries.
Mauritian industry has been affected by piracy, as the country's imports and exports move by ships that travel areas frequented by pirates. Shipping costs have increased because maritime companies must pay more for security and insurance premiums.


U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT : "The first action that Mauritius should take is to ensure that their domestic laws adequately criminalize piracy"

In January, I wrote an article for Week-End about the role that Mauritius was developing in the region's efforts to combat piracy. The United States has made maritime security a key bilateral issue in its relations with Mauritius. In researching that story, I sent a series of questions to officials at the U.S. State Department. Here are their responses:
Week-End: What are the advantages and benefits for Mauritius and other African countries to be involved in pirate prosecutions?
State Department: In addition to helping the international community suppress the criminal gangs involved in piracy –who also engage in smuggling of arms, drugs, and other contraband as well as human beings – countries have the opportunity to update and exercise their laws and judicial officials to more effectively prosecute other kinds of crime as well as piracy. They benefit from the advice and assistance of governments who are willing to share their experience in piracy prosecution. They will be better prepared to defend their own citizens and interests in the event that Mauritians or others are victimized by maritime pirates. Mauritius has emerged as regional leader in good governance and economic reform, so it is also well-positioned to become a model for regional security and law-enforcement cooperation.
Why should African countries take on this role — isn't it the responsibiltiy of the EU and the US, whose cargo ships are most affected?
Piracy affects African countries just as much as anyone else. It has hampered regional tourism, driven up the cost of shipping, victimized African as well as Asian and other seafarers, impeded humanitarian assistance to East Africa, and generally increased the cost of doing business in Africa. Cargo ships from Africa, Asia, and Latin America are even more at risk than those from the EU or United States, which are typically better able to protect themselves. African – especially Indian Ocean littoral – countries have in many ways more at stake than Western nations in seeking long-term solutions to piracy, which certainly includes robust and effective judicial response to this kind of crime.
Law enforcement efforts have curbed pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa, but many say it has pushed the criminal activity further south in the Indian Ocean or has moved it further inland. What evidence do experts have of this trend, and how might island nations like Mauritius prepare themselves for such activity that might move their way?
Evidence of trends in maritime crime is largely anecdotal since there is no mandatory global regime that requires reporting of such events. Governments and industry organizations collect and analyze such information to the extent that they are able. One excellent indicator of actual risk of hijacking is the maritime insurance underwriters' establishment of High Risk Areas; underwriters are responsible for insurance payments to companies whose ships and crew are victimized by pirates very likely have the most accurate sense of where maritime crime is most acute. Reporting on land-based criminal trends in poorly governed places like Somalia is likewise largely anecdotal.
The first and most obvious action that Mauritius and others should take is to ensure that their domestic laws adequately criminalize piracy, conspiracy to commit piracy, armed robbery at sea, extortion, kidnapping, and smuggling. Such legislation should enable states to prosecute citizens of other countries – or stateless persons – as well as their own citizens, and should be consistent with international conventions and treaties that deal with these crimes.


Celebrating Mauritius in Washington

Two events in Washington last month offered an opportunity for Mauritius to showcase its history, cuisine, economy and diverse population.
On March 14, Ambassador and Mrs. Somduth Soborun gathered Mauritians and friends of Mauritius to their residence to celebrate National Day. This is an annual gathering that brings Mauritians living in Washington, U.S. government officials that work with Mauritius, African ambassadors and other friends of Mauritius together for an evening of friendship and island cuisine. Among the top U.S. officials were the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, the Assistant U.S. Trade Representative and officials of the World Bank.
I was unable to attend the event, but Ghislaine Dalais Dittberner tells me that Ambassador Soborun, who in his last term as Mauritian ambassador, offered spoke about U.S.-African trade, the evolution of the Mauritian economy and the rise in personal incomes on the island. He also took creative license with a quote from American writer Mark Twain by saying that "God created Mauritius first and then copied Heaven on it," which elicited laughter from the crowd. Both the ambassador and the U.S. officials attending underscored the long standing diplomatic and trade ties between the two countries.
The following week, on March 21st, Mauritius revived its participation in the Grande Fete de la Francophonie, held annually at the French Embassy in Washington. Several Mauritians living in Washington — Ghislaine and Job Dittberner, Carolyn and Gerard Balancy, the ambassador and a few staffers from the embassy — provided Mauritian food and helped make a colorful, tropical stand that represented Mauritius to hundreds of visitors who came to sample Francophone culture, cuisine and music from around the world.
The Mauritius stand featured colorful posters, pareos, a dodo bird, anthruiums and a bowl of tropical fruit. There were gateaux piment, samousas and napolitains, rougaille de pistache, iced vanilla tea, guava paste, and four colors of gateaux cocos fin the form of the Mauritian flag.  
The participation of Mauritius in this event was timely, as Prime Minister  Navin Ramgoolam had just nominated Jean-Claude de l'Estrac as a candidate to be the next chairman of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. De L'Estrac is the current Secretary General of the Indian Ocean Commission. The next Francophonie chair will succeed Senegalese Abdou Diouf, who has led the organization since 2002.


Bernardin de Saint-Pierre takes center stage in Le Havre
 
Fans of Paul et Virginie author Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre will find their "bonheur" in France, as Le Havre celebrates the bicentennial of the writer's death with conferences and special exhibits that run through September 21.
Le Havre, located in northwest France along the English Channel and at the mouth of the Seine River, is extremely proud that one of France's literary giants was born in their city. There's a street named after him, the city library possesses an extensive collection of his correspondences and manuscripts, his portraits can be seen in a restored mansion from the 18th century, and his bronze statute stands watch over the Justice building.
The special program, called "Paul & Virginie: Un Exotisme Enchanteur," offers a varied selection of events, including conferences on slavery, discussions about the themes of Paul & Virginie and other writings by Saint-Pierre, activities for children, tours of his favorite places in Le Havre, and viewings of the poetic environment of Paul & Virginie as seen through engravings, decorative arts, antique clocks, games and paintings.
Le Havre possesses an impressive collection of Saint-Pierre's prolific correspondence — more than 2,800 letters to and from the author that detail his travels to Eastern Europe and Mauritius and provide insights into the cultural and social life in the late 18th century. He began his adventurous traveling at the age of 12 with a trip to Martinique with an uncle. Trained as an engineer, he was sent on an expedition by the king to Madagascar, but instead continued on to Ile de France, wherre he worked briefly as an engineer but spent most of his time studying plants and the colonial French society that was taking root on  the island. He was one of several French Enlightenment writers who visited the island between 1760 and the French Revolution. He was highly critical of French colonialism and the treatment of slaves on the island.
He published Paul et Virginie in 1788, and the story about naive love in the tropics, was a best-seller, going to hundreds of editions and translated into many languages. The novel inspired paintings, ballets, poems, operas, songs and decorations on china and clothing. And perhaps, more importantly, it introduced European readers in the late 18th century and early 19th century to the location and landscape of Ile de France.
A crime against science
But if you visit the Jardin des Plantes in the 5th arrondissement in Paris, you'll learn that there's more to Saint-Pierre than Paul et Virginie. In a recent walk through the gardens, I was surprised to find a weathered monument of Saint-Pierre, seated and looking pensive, while Paul et Virginie play at his feet. What was an Enlightenment writer doing in a botanical garden?
Come to find out, Bernardin de St. Pierre was a manager of the Jardin des Plantes, the last to be appointed by the king before the Revolution. It was Saint-Pierre who was responsible for starting the menagerie there, after the king's small zoo was pillaged by revolutionaries and many of the animals, including a camel, were either eaten or destroyed as symbols of royal excesses.
Five surviving animals, including a rhinoceros and a lion, were saved after Saint-Pierre proclaimed that their death would be a crime against science, and they were transferred to a make-shift zoo at the Jardin des Plantes. These animals were later joined by many others that were used in animal shows which had been banned by the new Revolutionary government. This was the beginning of a menagerie that today features more than 2,000 animals, including many exotic and rare species.
Aside from the zoo, Jardin des Plantes, started in 1626, also contains a botanical garden and the Natural History Museum, which features skeletons of dinosaurs, all kinds of minerals, rare plants and birds.
And if you want to make final closure on Saint-Pierre, don't forget to see his tomb at the Père Lachaise Cemetery, one of Paris' most beautiful and historic burial grounds, located in the 20th arrondissement. He's buried there in an author's section, a bit off the beaten path.


Commentaires

An interesting insight into the piracy situation - especially the State Department's answer to the question about whose responsibility it is to prosecute pirates.

Piracy prosecution can be complicated and expensive and in Mauritius, it seems, very slow. There is a perception in the USA and Europe that after their sentence comes to an end pirates will seek asylum, and these countries will be lumbered with a lot of unwanted criminal cargo. That's why they don't want to prosecute on home territory and prefer to sub-contract to African and Indian Ocean states (rather as the EU exports its waste to Third World countries...).

The asylum argument is spurious: laws can be written to ensure a person given a custodial sentence is automatically repatriated to their country of origin, regardless of human rights claims. Also, the Seychelles has repatriation agreements with Somalia's states, allowing excess pirates to be sent back to finish their sentences in Puntland, Somaliland and Federal Somalia. If Seychelles can do it, so can every other country - no excuses.

While the USA and some EU states have started prosecuting piracy suspects, the countries that are not pulling their weight at all are the ships' flag states. Huge numbers of ships are registered in countries that won't lift a finger to prosecute pirates when their vessels are attacked.

Between 2009 and 2013, there were 110 attacks on vessels registered in China and Hong Kong, 162 on Marshall Islands ships, 240 on vessels flying the Liberian flag and 305 attacks on ships registered in Panama. And guess what? Not one pirate has been prosecuted or jailed by those countries.

Piracy and every other kind of maritime crime, along with appalling breaches of safety rules and mistreatment of seafarers, will continue for as long as flag states are allowed to get away with taking money for registering ships while refusing to take responsibility for what, legally, is a part of their country sailing on the world's oceans.

These rogue states cause more damage and misery than any number of Somali desperadoes.