Congress Conducts Piracy Hearing


May 2013


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Piracy on the world’s seas may be falling in prevalence, but officials testified in a recent congressional hearing on the matter that more work would be needed to build on recent successes and battle piracy where it remains.


Chaired by U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation heard from a variety of officials about the battle against piracy and strategies for ensuring ongoing progress. Hunter discussed the advancement against piracy in his opening remarks, adding efforts by the maritime industry, including maritime labor and others made all the difference.


“Since the subcommittee’s last hearing on this topic, there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of attacks off the Horn of Africa,” Hunter said. “I commend industry, labor, the federal government, and the international community for working together and taking strong actions to improve the safety and security of the crews, vessels, and cargoes transiting those strategically important waters.”


The hearing followed a recent report released by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) showing that maritime piracy had reached a five-year low. While the report revealed there was a significant reduction in Somali piracy on the East Africa coast, it indicated the battle was far from over.


Hunter said that could be seen in the number of attacks off the West African coast.


“Unfortunately, although the situation has improved on the East Coast of Africa, it has deteriorated on the West Coast,” he said. “Attacks on vessels and mariners in the Gulf Coast of Guinea have risen nearly 20 percent from 2011 to 2012. Pirates are venturing further and further from shore and using more violent attacks.”


In his testimony to the subcommittee, U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Joseph Kuzmick pointed to proactive measures taken by both the shipping industry and the military. Those actions helped ward off attacks in the past, he added, and they would be able to prevent more in the future.


From the implementation of best management practices (BMPs) and the employment of armed security personnel, to an increase in naval deployments, Kuzmick said fighting piracy has been a team effort.


“BMPs include the use of concertina, razor wire and water hoses; transiting at speeds above 16 knots; use of ship citadels; and avoiding high-risk seas,” he said, adding that armed security also helps. “If the pirates identify armed security on a vessel, they will normally leave the area and search for a more vulnerable target.”


The battle against piracy also needs inter-agency, multi-national cooperation, added Rear Adm. Joseph Servidio, assistant commandant for prevention policy for the U.S. Coast Guard.


“The threats piracy pose to the United States, our international partners, the maritime industry and mariners are multifaceted,” he said. “The response to these threats requires a broad array of legal authorities, operational capabilities, skills and competencies and the support and expertise of numerous U.S. governments, international and commercial entities. The Coast Guard has an important role to play and remains committed to working with our military, government, maritime industry and international partners to reduce acts of piracy, bring these criminals to justice and forge long-term solutions for regional maritime safety and security.”


While he commended the gains that had been made, David Matsuda, administrator of the Maritime Administration (MarAd), said piracy in the Gulf of Guinea remained a problem, adding the agency would continue to give operational advice to counter piracy and raise awareness.



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