India joins the Djibouti Code of Conduct as Observer

Context: India joins Japan, Norway, the UK and the US as Observers to the Djibouti Code of Conduct/ Jeddah Amendment (DCOC/JA).


  • DCOC/JA is a grouping on maritime matters comprising 18 member states adjoining the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, the East coast of Africa and Island countries in the IOR.
  • The DCOC, established in January 2009, is aimed at repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Western Indian Ocean Region, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.
  • The Jeddah Amendment recognizes the important role of the “blue economy” and calls on the signatory States to cooperate to the fullest possible extent to repress transnational organized crime in the maritime domain; maritime terrorism; illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing and other illegal activities at sea.
  • The transnational organized crime referred to in the Code includes arms trafficking; trafficking in narcotics and psychotropic substances; illegal trade in wildlife; crude oil theft; human trafficking and smuggling; and illegal dumping of toxic waste. 

What is Piracy?

  • When a person or group of people attack and rob a ship, this is called piracy.
  • Pirate attacks are largely confined to four major areas:
  1. The Horn of Africa: the Gulf of Aden, near Somalia and the southern entrance to the Red Sea;
  2. The Gulf of Guinea, near Nigeria and the Niger River delta;
  3. The Malacca Strait between Indonesia and Malaysia; and
  4. Off the Indian subcontinent, particularly between India and Sri Lanka.

The level of pirate activity is affected by many factors. Below are some of the physical factors:

  1. The weather conditions, e.g. in the Indian Ocean, piracy levels decrease during a monsoon;
  2. The height of the waves;
  3. The conditions in other areas – if piracy levels decrease in one area because of naval surveillance or poor weather conditions, the level of piracy tends to increase in other areas
  • As a result of increased surveillance in the Gulf of Aden, it is thought that piracy attacks are moving out and towards the Indian Ocean.

Somalia and Piracy

Many pirates come from Somalia. Reasons are:

  1. limited economic opportunities throughout the country;
  2. it is beside a key commercial shipping route;
  3. it has a lack of effective government;
  4. it has difficulties enforcing law and order.

Decline of Piracy off the Coast of Somalia – How Did It Happen?

  • The decline in Somali piracy can be largely credited to the four principal ways the international community has used to address the problem:
  1. Maritime patrols by international naval forces;
  2. Industry development of a series of “Best Management Practices” (BMPs) for preventing piracy attacks;
  3. The increased use of armed security personnel on board ships; and
  4. The increase in international prosecutions for the crime of piracy.
  • In southern Somalia, however, Islamist al-Shabaab rebels have been waging a violent campaign to impose Sharia law and serve as a de-facto governing authority.
  • Al-Shabaab, which swore its allegiance to al-Qaeda in early 2012 and is categorized by the EU and United States as a terrorist organization, controls its territories with an iron fist, making it much harder for pirates to exploit the coastline as they do in Puntland.

Eyes in the Sky

  • Countries involved in the “Eyes in the Sky” operations against piracy by which they jointly carry out air patrols above the Malacca strait: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and Piracy

  • The international community also has at its disposal the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
  • The treaty, which came into effect in 1994, is binding for more than 150 nations and the European Union.
  • The United States has yet to ratify the agreement.
  • The Convention governs “all aspects of ocean space,” including the “settlement of disputes relating to ocean matters.”
  • It also makes “piracy a universal crime, and subjects pirates to arrest and prosecution by any nation.
  • The UN convention on the Law of the Sea defines piracy as “all illegal acts of violence or detention … committed for private ends by the crew or passengers of a private ship”.
  • But it says that piracy can take place only “on the high seas” or “outside the jurisdiction of any state”, which excludes the territorial waters of states, including the coastal areas of Somalia.
  • Even, “action permitted on the high seas” does not permit pursuing and boarding a pirate vessel or arresting those on board. To do so needs the further authorisation of the transitional government.

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