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Seychelles Against Piracy As Fishermen Held Hostage

February 23, 2012 - 13:10:29 UTC

Seychelles Committed to Counter Piracy But Two Fishermen Remain Hostage

Original Source: Afrique-Asie.fr [French language]

The Seychelles is committed to the fight against piracy with limited means but with great will and courage.

The article below was published in late 2011. The position of the Seychelles has been at the forefront of counter piracy efforts due in large part to the major impact Somali piracy has had on its economy. The London Conference on Somalia this week saw President James Michel reiterate his appeal to the International Community for increased commitment and support to peacekeeping forces within Somalia, as well as targeted interventions against all criminal and terrorist groups to displace hubs of criminal activities.

 Bruno and Debbie - NMS
Bruno & Debbie Lack Support (Phot:NMS)

However, with all the senior officials in one place to discuss future actions, including an anti-piracy centre located in the Seychelles, the fate of two fishermen, Rolly Tambara (70) and Mark Songoire (62) of Belvedere, Syechelles, has gone largely unnoticed. Unfortunately, they are in a similar position to the South African couple in that not much publicity has been given to their plight. Whilst the Bruno Pelizzari and Deborah Calitz case is receiving more media attention due to the efforts of their family, rather than their Government, the two Seychellois fishermen are in a parlous situation. A recent report states that a ransom demand of US$4 million has been made for their release after their fishing vessel, Aride, sank off Somalia. Read more - Somalia Report.

The original article [appeared in French] is translated here.

Two Seychellois fishermen, Rolly Tambara and Mark Songoire, were abducted by Somali pirates on November 2 [2011], in the Seychelles territorial waters, 65 miles west of the island of Mahe, the main island. The diversion of FV Aride was confirmed by photographs taken by a surveillance aircraft shows that Spanish anchored in the port of Habya. Since the first attack against fishing boats of Seychelles in February 2009, five ships have been attacked and captured, with eleven sailors kidnapped and released after payment of a ransom.

According to the Seychelles Minister of the Environment, Transport and Energy, Joel Morgan, who also heads the High Level Committee on piracy, it is not customary for Somali pirates to attack a boat of such a small size. A negotiating team was ready to intervene when the pirates claim was made known.

Seychellois fishermen are increasingly exposed to hijackers attacking ever closer to the coast of the archipelago. Days earlier on Nov 4, a Taiwanese ship, Chin Yu Wen, managed to defeat its attackers and sought help from the Coast Guard in Seychelles, the Topaz, responsible for bringing the boat and crew safely to the capital, Victoria.

Piracy is seen as a veritable "scourge" by Seychellois and the economic impact of this "small developing State", as designated by the UN, based on fishing and tourism, is not negligible. Fishing accounts for 23% of GDP and 95% of exports. Victoria Harbour is the largest tuna transshipment center in southern Indian Ocean, 85% of purse seine catches French and Basque (Spain) were landed and feed the tuna cannery. Tuna catches have decreased by 20% since the attacks of Somalia, according to the Seychelles government, the loss recorded is 12% per year, while the cannery was down 11%. Five tuna left the area to go fishing in the Atlantic Ocean and, for the year 2011, losses on fishing are estimated at 3 million euros. Tourism records, also, significant losses, leaving a deficit estimated at 6 million euros in 2011, losses due largely to the change of destination of cruise lines and the image that develops piracy and the virtual disappearance of Long-term pleasure in Seychelles waters.

The government's fear of seeing some of the 115 islands of the archipelago, the majority are uninhabited, become sanctuaries for pirates, is shared by the international community whose economic interests are threatened by piracy in the area of Indian Ocean, particularly the vital route for oil tankers and container ships. Maritime surveillance and air is provided by Atalanta, for a number of years by the European Union. Added to that, Operation Ocean Shield (NATO-since 2009), the support of Russia, the United Arab Emirates, China and India. But the immensity of the Seychelles exclusive economic zone and the remoteness of fishing compared to monitored areas do not allow full coverage.

The Seychelles are committed, with their limited means but with great determination and courage in the fight against piracy. Since 2009, 85 suspected pirates were captured and tried in Victoria. Twenty were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 to 23 years. Of new military forces will be deployed on the islands to ensure the safety of people and tourists and the aerial and maritime surveillance will be strengthened near the islands. But all this has a cost, a very high cost for a state with 90,000 inhabitants and has limited resources and vulnerable. Seychelles is the position, therefore, very clear: if one wants to eradicate Somali piracy, one must see long term and the international community should undertake a more comprehensive approach to the issue.

The appeal was made, once again, by President James Michel after the attack. The international community must intensify its efforts to intervene in Somalia and bring stability to the country. " The problem of Somalia is not only the problem of Seychelles, is an international problem, he repeated. The international community must, as complex as it is, to ensure that law and order are restored in Somalia. It is only then that the problem will be solved pirates. It has been the situation in Somalia deteriorate for too long. "

According to James Michel, there is now urgent to act in this direction because " Somalia could become a nest of terrorists and the entire international community is concerned . " In Somalia, also, hackers are not always viewed favorably by the public, contrary to the widely shared. For example, depending on the service information and analysis of humanitarian Humanitarian Aid Office of the UN in 2009, the population of Eyl (Puntland) opposed the pirates who had kidnapped a fishing boat and Indian and Bangladeshi crew. After requesting the intervention of the authorities of Puntland, the fishermen were released, supported by village elders and handed to the authorities. In Eyl, "nobody wants it," said one resident about pirates, speaking apparently widely felt in the small town.

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