Efforts would benefit from agency assessments
Hostages Taken In Horn of Africa Piracy Incidents, 2008 through 2013
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report regarding the ongoing US counterpiracy efforts, primarily off the Horn of Africa and in the Gulf of Guinea and, and how they would benefit from agency assessments.
Piracy incidents off the Horn of Africas east coast near Somalia have declined sharply since 2010, but U.S. agencies have not assessed their counterpiracy efforts as GAO recommended in 2010. Since 2010, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reports piracy incidents declined from 219 to 15 in 2013. Similarly, from 2010 to 2013 hostages taken by pirates declined from 1,016 to 34. Also, a World Bank report stated that total ransoms declined by 2012.
Officials participating in counterpiracy activities from the Departments of Defense and State, among others, as well as shipping industry officials and international partners, attribute the decline to a combination of prevention, disruption, and prosecution activities. However, officials cautioned that this progress is tenuous, and discontinuing these efforts could allow piracy to resurge. Despite changing conditions, U.S. agencies have not systematically assessed the costs and benefits of their counterpiracy efforts.
Agency officials stated that their decisions and actions are guided by discussions rather than formal assessments. GAO has previously noted that assessments of risk and effectiveness in an interagency environment can strengthen strategies and resource usage. As such, GAOs prior recommendations remain valid and could help U.S. agencies identify the most cost effective mix of efforts and prioritize activities as they respond to changing conditions and fiscal pressures while avoiding a resurgence in piracy.
Off the west coast of Africa, piracy and maritime crime has been a persistent problem in the Gulf of Guinea, as shown in the figure below. Although the United States has interagency and international efforts underway with African states to strengthen maritime security, it has not assessed its efforts or the need for a collective plan to address the evolving problem in the region.
The U.S. role in addressing piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has focused on prevention, disruption, and prosecution, through training and assistance to African coastal states. However, according to U.S. agencies working in the region, the National Security Council Staff (NSCS) has not directed them to collectively assess their efforts to address piracy and maritime crime. An assessment of agencies Gulf of Guinea efforts could strengthen their approach by informing the appropriate mix of activities to achieve the most effective use of limited resources, as well as help determine if additional actions are needed.
The types of crime, vessel traffic, and coastal states jurisdictional responses to address the piracy problem off the Horn of Africa and in the Gulf of Guinea generally differ, as does the U.S. response
|Dirrences betweenPiracy off the Horn of Africa and Gulf of Guinea|
U.S. Efforts to Prevent Acts of Piracy
U.S. agencies, in collaboration with their international and industry partners have taken several steps to deter pirates and reduce the vulnerability of ships transiting off the Horn of Africa. DOD and State officials and representatives from each of eight shipping industry associations we met with emphasized that these prevention efforts work together and described the following as examples of key prevention efforts.
U.S. Efforts to Support Prosecution of Suspected Pirates and Maritime Criminals
According to the Action Plan, facilitating the prosecution and detention of pirates off the Horn of Africa is a central element of U.S. efforts to combat piracy in the region. However, as previously noted, the majority of Gulf of Guinea maritime crimes occur within the territorial waters of one or more country and as a result are under their legal jurisdiction. As such, the U.S. role in prosecuting suspected criminals, like its role in prevention and disruption of attacks, is one of support and capacity building.
Recommendations for Executive Action
To help ensure that efforts to counter piracy and maritime crime are coordinated and prioritized to effectively address the evolving threat, we recommend that the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, in collaboration with the Secretaries of Defense and State, work through the Counter-Piracy Steering Group or otherwise collaborate withthe Secretaries of Homeland Security, Transportation, and the Treasury, and the Attorney General to
- conduct an assessment of U.S. efforts to address piracy and maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea to inform these efforts and
- determine whether additional actions to address counterpiracy and maritime security, such as developing an action plan that includes elements of a strategic approach, are needed to guide and coordinate activities.
Source and Image Credit: GAO
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