OBP lauds international efforts against piracy in Somalia

International efforts against piracy in Somalia have helped to reduce pirate attacks in the region, according to Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP), which negotiated the recent release of 26 hostages, including one from Taiwan.

The number of Somalian pirates has significantly decreased over the past several years and their weapons are also not as good as in the past, said Ben Lawellin, a project manager for OBP focusing on Somali Maritime Resource and Security Strategy.

This is credited to coordinated efforts by countries around the world to combat piracy in Somalia, in which Taiwan has also taken a part, Lawellin told CNA in an interview Friday.

While there has not been a successful attack on a commercial vessel since 2012, there have been a number of attacks on fishing vessels and there remains a number of hostages still held in Somalia.

Ten Iranians from the FV Siraj (taken in 2015) and three Kenyan kidnapping victims (including a sick lady) remain in the hands of pirates, and a number of AMISOM soldiers remain captives of Al Shabaab.

OBP, launched in 2010 with the intent to develop a response to maritime piracy, is a project of the One Earth Future Foundation, a privately funded and independent non-profit organization based in the United States.

In 2015, Taiwan donated US$166,000 to OBP for the Maritime Communications Initiative, which aimed to establish maritime security centers in five Somali ports over a two-year period to enhance maritime communications in Somalia.

According to Tung Kuo-yu (???), Taiwan's representative to the European Union and Belgium, the initiative allowed Taiwan to establish close contact with OBP, and Taiwan was informed as soon as OBP reached an agreement with Somalian pirates on the release of 26 captives from the Naham 3.

The Omani-flagged fishing vessel was hijacked in March 2012 roughly 65 nautical miles south of the Seychelles. The Taiwanese captain was killed during the hijacking and two of the original crew -- one Chinese and one Indonesian -- later fell ill and died during captivity.

The remaining 26 crew members, from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, spent much of their captivity on land in Somalia until their release on Oct. 22.

Lawellin, who took part in the rescue mission, described the moment he saw the released captives as the "most touching moment" in his life.

OBP began negotiating for the sailors' release 18 months ago after getting in touch with the pirates via various channels, he said.

Although the negotiation process was full of frustration, with the negotiators facing the risk of being held hostage, they did not give up and eventually reached an agreement with the pirates, he said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel