Saudi Arabia’s role in banishing piracy from regional waters

Saudi Arabia’s role in banishing piracy from regional waters
Updated 10 April 2019

Saudi Arabia’s role in banishing piracy from regional waters

Saudi Arabia’s role in banishing piracy from regional waters
  • Armed criminals no longer terrorize regional waters thanks to a coalition in which Saudi Arabia is a key player
  • Crimes on the high seas have dipped to their lowest levels in years, maritime experts say

DUBAI: A decade ago, during the peak years of the Somali piracy crisis, the waters of the Arabian Gulf faced frequent threats from armed criminals at sea, who disrupted the economy by terrorizing shipping routes.

But experts say regional action — with Saudi Arabia at the forefront — has meant crimes on the high seas have dipped to some of the lowest records in years. 

A five-year stretch between 2007 and 2012 saw Somalia’s lawless coastline at the epicenter of global maritime crime. Numerous kidnappings and hijackings threatened vital maritime trade routes.

Every year, tens of thousands of vessels transit through the Gulf of Aden, which leads to the Suez Canal, amounting to roughly 10 percent of global trade flows.

Pirates terrorized vessels on some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, with almost daily incidents across the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, causing an $18 billion loss to the global economy, according to the World Bank. In 2010 alone, there were 489 instances of piracy, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

Enter the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), an anti-piracy coalition of 33 nations from all over the world — including five Gulf states — in which Saudi Arabia is a key player. Established some years prior, the CMF stepped up its operations following a massive global anti-piracy effort in 2008.

That year, the UN Security Council also urged countries to use “all necessary means” to defeat piracy, while encouraging them to patrol the Somali coastline, particularly the Gulf of Aden.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has played a huge part in three CMF task forces: Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, which conducts counterterrorism and maritime security operations in the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman; CTF 151, which conducts counterpiracy operations; and CTF 152, which conducts maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf.

Lt. Commander Ian Miller of CTF 152 said Saudi Arabia has been instrumental in tackling maritime crimes across the Arabian Gulf, while GCC countries have collectively taken a leadership role in investing in long-term, onshore solutions in order to permanently end piracy in the Horn of Africa.

“The GCC countries play a significant role in the CMF,” Miller told Arab News. The Saudi military has “supplied personnel and assets in all three task forces,” and has “commanded CTF 150 once and CTF 152 on two separate occasions,” he said. This has led to “a number of notable successes,” particularly for CTF 150 operations, including “seizure and destruction of several thousand tons of hashish and heroin,” he added.

At the height of piracy around the Horn of Africa, the impact on the Gulf was profound. During that time, more than a dozen ships that were either owned, managed or flagged by GCC countries were attacked or hijacked by Somali pirates, including the 1,090-foot, Saudi-owned crude super-tanker MV Sirius Star.

It was hijacked in November 2008 more than 450 nautical miles off the coast of Kenya as it was en route from Saudi Arabia to the US via the Cape of Good Hope.

The super-tanker was transporting 2 million barrels of oil, and was only released after a multimillion-dollar ransom payment. 

In March 2010, Saudi tanker Al-Nisr Al-Saudi was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden. Pirates held its Greek captain and its 13 Sri Lankan crew members hostage until the ship was released some eight months later, after another hefty ransom was reportedly paid. 

There have also been unsuccessful attempts by pirates to hijack GCC ships, including the Saudi-owned chemical tanker Al-Balad. Such attacks led to NATO naval forces guarding Somalia’s coastline as part of the offshore military response.

A number of nations, including Saudi Arabia, sent ships to help secure the massive area in which pirates operate. 

At the height of Somali piracy in January 2011, 736 hostages and 32 ships were being held by pirates, said Miller. By October 2016, no hostages or ships were being held. 

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) said there has been a lot of work to address piracy off the coast of Somalia, partly through the implementation of the 2009 Djibouti Code of Conduct and the Jeddah Amendment, which was adopted by countries in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden to combat piracy and armed robbery against ships operating in that region. The IMO said Saudi Arabia has been key in pushing forward the Djibouti Code of Conduct and the Jeddah Amendment.

“The Djibouti Code of Conduct, which has been instrumental in repressing piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, saw its scope significantly broadened to cover other illicit maritime activities following a 2017 meeting hosted in Jeddah, which adopted a revised code of conduct known as the Jeddah Amendment,” an IMO spokesperson told Arab News.

Signatories to the amendment, which calls on member states to cooperate against transnational organized maritime crime, include Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Madagascar, the Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, the Seychelles, Somalia, the UAE and Yemen.

Following the crucial Jeddah meeting, participatory states agreed to work together, with support from the IMO and other stakeholders, to build national and regional capacity to address wider maritime security issues.

“Several Gulf states signed the Jeddah Amendment, committing to suppress illicit maritime acts, and the number of incidents in the region and off the coast of Somalia has decreased since piracy was at its peak in 2010-2011,” the IMO said. “Action by all countries, as well as ships applying best management practices, have certainly helped.”

The IMB recorded 180 incidents in 2017, down from 489 in 2010 and the lowest annual number since 1995. The last reported incident of piracy was in March 2018, when four suspected pirates approached a vessel. But after the vessel increased its speed, they stopped their chase.

Although current piracy levels remain low, Miller said the battle has not yet been won, adding: “It’s understood that piracy remains repressed, but it isn’t eliminated.”

Michiel Hijmans, general manager of the Maritime Security Alliance, which provides non-violent legal solutions to combat hijacking and stowaways, also said maritime crimes in the region are now diminished. 

He said as long as the Gulf of Aden is well protected by counterpiracy units, the threat will stay low. “In the future, it could easily rise if countries step down on their efforts,” he added. 

Hijmans stressed the need for more countries to build up their maritime capacity and tackle the root causes of piracy. 

“A comprehensive, lasting piracy solution is something the whole world should be looking after, but it isn’t very realistic that such a solution will be found on short notice,” he said. “Countries have many other priorities to look after. We’re good at fighting the symptoms, but tackling the root causes of piracy — like failed states, famine and organized crime — is another issue.”

 


Saudi, Palestinian Authority foreign ministers hold call

Saudi, Palestinian Authority foreign ministers hold call
Updated 19 min 12 sec ago

Saudi, Palestinian Authority foreign ministers hold call

Saudi, Palestinian Authority foreign ministers hold call
  • Prince Faisal bin Farhan affirmed the Kingdom's condemnation of illegal practices carried out by Israeli authorities

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister spoke to the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Riyad Al-Maliki on the phone on Friday.

During the call, Prince Faisal bin Farhan affirmed the Kingdom's condemnation of illegal practices carried out by Israeli authorities, and the need to immediately stop the country's escalatory actions that violate all international norms and conventions.

Prince Faisal called for the completion of efforts aimed at finding a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue which would enable the Palestinian people to establish an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and in accordance with international legitimacy decisions and the Arab Peace Initiative.

Meanwhile, Jordan’s foreign minister said he had discussed with Prince Faisal targeted efforts to “stop the Israeli aggression on Gaza and the attacks in Jerusalem and the rest of the Palestinian territories,” as a means of ending the current escalation.

“Occupation is the basis of the conflict, and launching an effective political movement to end it is a priority that we are working on with our brothers and partners,” Ayman Safadi tweeted.

Safadi also spoke to his Omani and Egyptian counterparts regarding the escalation in “occupied Palestinian Territories.”

Prince Faisal also received a phone call from Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi during which the two ministers discussed the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The foreign minister also discussed the conflict between Gaza and Israel with his Sudanese counterpart Mariam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi.


Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 14 May 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 415,747
  • A total of 7,134 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 12 deaths from COVID-19 and 927 new infections on Friday.
Of the new cases, 265 were recorded in Riyadh, 262 in Makkah, 128 in the the Eastern Province, 69 in Madinah, 54 in Asir, 36 in Jazan, 22 in Tabuk, 19 in Hail, 18 in Najran, eight in the Northern Borders region, and seven in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 415,747 after 1,608 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 7,134 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 11.2 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


King Salman prays for ‘continued security and stability’

King Salman prays for ‘continued security and stability’
Updated 14 May 2021

King Salman prays for ‘continued security and stability’

King Salman prays for ‘continued security and stability’
  • All mosques and prayer areas maintain full health protocols

JEDDAH: King Salman performed Eid prayers in NEOM on Thursday. 

Earlier, he extended greetings to Saudi citizens and residents and Muslims all over the world.

In a tweet on Thursday, the king said: “We thank God Almighty for making the blessed Eid Al-Fitr a sign of good and satisfaction after completing the fasting and prayers of Ramadan. 

“Eid carries hope, optimism, and happiness, and we pray to God to cleanse the entire world of all evil, protect us from harm, and grant us continued security, stability, and tranquility.”

The king said this Eid is an occasion to overcome the ordeal that the world has suffered from the health, social and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

King Salman said he was “optimistic about the positive steps in place to achieve stability in the Arab world, so that security and prosperity prevail for all parts of the globe.”

“Combating this pandemic that has befallen the world requires all of us to adhere to the health measures announced by the Ministry of Health, including social distancing, and the need to receive the vaccine, which will work to immunize our dear community of citizens and residents,” the king said.

Mask-clad worshippers entered Makkah’s Grand Mosque along socially distanced paths to offer Eid prayer. Worshippers at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah also followed COVID-19 protocols.

As Saudi families gathered to celebrate the first day of Eid Al-Fitr, the Kingdom’s health minister urged people to follow official health precautions to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“I need your attention on your Eid. Be careful, refrain from shaking hands completely, be sure to practice social distancing, and avoid large gatherings,” Tawfiq Al-Rabiah tweeted on the eve of festivities.

“Go to the Eid prayer with your own prayer mat, wear the mask constantly, sanitize your hands before and after receiving or giving Eidiya, and leave a safe distance between you and others,” he added. The minister also warned parents not to allow children to hug or kiss their grandparents, saying that such practices may endanger older members of the family.

Worshippers across the Kingdom performed Eid Al-Fitr prayers in 20,569 mosques and open-air prayer areas set up by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance.

Mosques and prayer areas were equipped with facilities in accordance with the health protocols approved by the authorities to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

The imams spoke during the Eid sermon about the blessing of completing fasting and praying qiyaam, and the importance of the continuation of good deeds after Ramadan.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia reported 11 more COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday. The death toll now stands at 7,122.

The Health Ministry reported 1,116 new cases, meaning that 430,505 people have now contracted the disease. There are 9,244 remaining active cases, 1,344 of which are in critical condition.

According to the ministry, 377 of the newly recorded cases were in Riyadh, 320 in Makkah, 134 in the Eastern Province and 71 in Madinah. In addition, 1,129 patients recovered from the disease, bringing the total number of recoveries to 414,139.

Saudi Arabia so far has conducted 17,812,376 PCR tests, with 71,457 carried out in the past 24 hours.

Saudis and expats in the Kingdom continue to receive their COVID-19 jabs, with 11,195,164 people inoculated so far.


OIC: Continuing Houthi attacks against civilian targets tantamount to war crimes

OIC: Continuing Houthi attacks against civilian targets tantamount to war crimes
Updated 14 May 2021

OIC: Continuing Houthi attacks against civilian targets tantamount to war crimes

OIC: Continuing Houthi attacks against civilian targets tantamount to war crimes
  • The OIC announced on Thursday that it will hold an emergency meeting on Sunday, at the request of Saudi Arabia, to discuss the situation in Jerusalem and Gaza

JEDDAH: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) strongly condemned the “cowardly, hostile action” by terrorist Houthi militias in Yemen, which on Thursday launched eight drones and three ballistic missiles at civilian targets in the Kingdom.

The Arab coalition fighting the Houthis in support of Yemen’s internationally recognized government said it intercepted and destroyed the drones and missiles before they reached their targets.

OIC Secretary-General Yousef Al-Othaimeen praised the coalition forces for their vigilance and professionalism in responding to the Houthi’s attack, which took place on the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

“The continued launch of ballistic missiles and drones toward civilians and civilian objects is considered war crimes, and a flagrant defiance of international laws, customs and agreements,” he said.

He also reiterated the OIC’s solidarity with the Kingdom in all the steps Saudi authorities take to deter Houthi aggression and protect civilians.

Hamdan Al-Shehri, a political analyst and international-relations scholar, told Arab News: “This is a particularly special day for Muslims, Eid Al-Fitr, and all Muslims are also preoccupied by what is happening in Palestine.

“We always hear Iran making threats, but instead of standing with Palestine it is targeting Makkah, Madinah and the Kingdom. This demonstrates the Houthi’s futility, and the extent of Tehran’s malice and how it is always standing with the Houthi forces.

“As we’ve seen, such events are always against civilians. Iran and the Iran-backed Houthi militias have their weapons aimed at civilians because they want civilian victims.” Al-Shehri added: “These are war crimes. The global community should do something, especially about the hundreds of ballistic missiles and drones. The world is only watching.” Meanwhile, the OIC announced on Thursday that it will hold an emergency meeting on Sunday, at the request of Saudi Arabia, to discuss the situation in Jerusalem and Gaza. The meeting of the foreign ministers of OIC member nations will address the continuing Israeli attacks in the Palestinian territories, which have escalated since Monday.

Israeli troops were massing at the Gaza border on Thursday. Meanwhile Hamas targeted Israel with rocket attacks. The increasingly intense hostilities have caused international concern and provoked clashes between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

With fears growing that the violence could spiral out of control into full-blown war, the US announced on Wednesday it is sending an envoy, Hady Amr, to the region.


Saudis divided between electronic, traditional Eidiya

Saudis divided between electronic, traditional Eidiya
Updated 14 May 2021

Saudis divided between electronic, traditional Eidiya

Saudis divided between electronic, traditional Eidiya
  • Due to the ongoing pandemic, many Saudis turn to electronic payments to give out Eidiyas this year as opposed to cash in hand

JEDDAH: As Muslims around the world are celebrating Eid Al-Fitr in their own unique ways, children in every nation tend to always steal the spotlight with their tireless demands for Eidiya money.

Similar to Halloween in the west, children wait eagerly for this time of the year so they can dress up, visit one household to the next, and receive as much Eidiya money (and chocolates) as possible.

However, due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many Saudis turned to electronic payments to give out Eidiyas this year. Still, others prefer the old-fashioned way of handing out Eidiyas in cash while also taking COVID-19 health precautions into consideration.

Saudi dentist Jameela Al-Ghamdi, 29, said being deprived of family gatherings for Eid Al-Fitr last year was frustrating. 

“It was so strange to go through,” she told Arab News. “We never skipped visiting our families on such special occasions.”

She is now relieved because people in her family susceptible to the virus have received the vaccine jab and these special occasions can happen again. 

“I am so happy to dress up with my sisters and also visit family members I have not seen in an unfairly long time,” Al-Ghamdi said.

Her family, although mostly vaccinated, prefers to give out Eidiyas electronically, as Al-Ghamdi says she is a fan of technology. 

“We tried giving out Eidiyas through STC Pay last year and it was very quick, simple and convenient. No need to break down SR100 at minimarkets anymore,” she said.

Ali Mansour, a 33-year-old Saudi industrial engineer at Saudia airline, said the best part of Eid is visiting family. He also added the occasion is not the same without gatherings. Mansour’s family started giving out Eidiyas electronically long before the pandemic because of its convenience.

HIGHLIGHTS

•Similar to Halloween in the west, children wait eagerly for this time of the year so they can dress up, visit one household to the next, and receive as much Eidiya money (and chocolates) as possible. •However, due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many Saudis turned to electronic payments to give out Eidiyas this year. Still, others prefer the old-fashioned way of handing out Eidiyas in cash while also taking COVID-19 health precautions into consideration.

“Way before the pandemic and the creations of such platforms like STC Pay, we gave out Eidiyas through bank transfers,” he told Arab News. “Electronic payments are not something new to us. My dad would always transfer the Eidiya into my account, never in cash.” He added that the last time he received Eidiya in cash was probably back in high school.

Young children are the most significant part of the Eid celebration, said Mansour, as they will receive Eidiyas in cash since they cannot use devices.

Saudi Lujain Al-Jehani, 27, said Eid Al-Fitr is extra special this year because people were deprived of the holiday gatherings last year.

“Due to the pandemic, we did not have the opportunity to celebrate together,” she told Arab News. “We are so excited and thrilled. We are going to prepare cakes and activities that we were deprived of last year.”

Al-Jehani’s family prefers to give out Eidiyas in person: “The experience is different, holding cash in your hand,” she said.

Al-Jehani added that most of the elderly in her family do not know how to use electronic payment platforms.

Saudi medical student Renad Bajodah, 25, said Eid celebrations are important experiences and will have a lasting impact on a child’s memory.

“Eid means joy to me. It means coming together and honoring the days of our lives, and celebrating after the completion of the holy month of Ramadan,” Bajodah told Arab News. 

“The excitement of Eid’s eve is what is most beautiful to me, seeing kids wearing their new pajamas all happy on the night of Eid. It also teaches parents how to give to their children. To give them the best experience and beautiful childhood memories.” 

While Bajodah’s family still prefers Eidiyas in cash, they sanitize them thoroughly before delivering in carefully closed envelopes. They like the “traditional old school style,” he said.

Saudi Yara Ahmad, 27, who works in the market research industry, said Eid Al-Fitr means a lot to her. The whole experience from new clothes, delicious food and candy, family gatherings and Eidiya money is something adults and children alike look forward to every year.

Electronic Eidiya did not bode well for her family which continues to distribute cash to children while keeping in mind the sanitization part and necessary precautions.

Saudi Salman Al-Otaibi, 32, who prefers the old-fashioned way of giving out Eidiyas while following hygienic measures, said a new voting poll for Eidiyas that has been circulating a week before Eid Al-Fitr takes away a special element.

“The idea has nothing to do with the purpose of Eidiyas and bringing a smile on children and adults’ faces,” he told Arab News. 

“Because it has become a contest and everyone is running after people in groups and social media sites to vote. I think it is far from what Eidiya is supposed to mean.”