The Republic of Seychelles is a front state in the fight against piracy. Hardly any country has suffered from piracy as much, with the tourism and fishing industry paying a significant price for the ongoing risks of piracy activity in the regional waters. Western states increasingly hesitate to devote as much resources to the fight against piracy as they have done since 2008 when piracy escalated. There is much debate on whether the naval missions CTF 151, NATO’s Ocean Shield and EUNAVFOR, commonly known as the big three, will continue past 2016 given the decline in successful attacks. Through missions such as EUCAP Nestor, IMO’s Djibouti Code of Conduct Process and UNODC’s Maritime Crime Programme much has been invested in building up the capacity of regional states to put them in the position to patrol the regional waters. Keeping piracy down and fighting maritime crime, reaching from the smuggling of narcotics and people to addressing the pressing problem of wildlife crime are the challenges of the future.
The Seychelles have been a main recipient of capacity building and they have taken the lead in prosecuting pirates. During my visit to Victoria and Mahe Island last week I was able to get an impression of the progress of capacity-building. Much has been achieved. The Montagne Posée Prison, where pirates are detained and await their trials or serve their sentence until they are transferred, has been refurbished and is operated following international standards. The construction of new court room facilities in Victoria is almost complete. Training for the Coast Guard, Airforce, prosecutors, police and prison services is ongoing and three mentors work with these agencies. The Coastguard has received three new vessels this year and radar stations are being built to ensure better maritime domain awareness. A new civil maritime police force will complement the work of the Coastguard, notably in ensuring safety in the coastal zones. While much has been achieved the need for more capacity building continues. While the equipment that the Seychelles will require to govern their maritime domain in collaboration with regional partners is there, capacitybuilding will have to increasingly concern the software. Recruiting, training and educating staff and establishing adequate management structures by which the new infrastructure can be maintained under the conditions of high resource scarcity remain major challenges. Efforts will also concern to improve the sharing and fusing of information and the coordination between the different ministries and agencies that are responsible for the maritime domain. It is clear that more progress will be needed to govern the vast maritime domain of the Seychelles.
Recently the Seychelles has stepped up to co-chair one of the working groups of the international Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. This is an important step. The region will require a leading nation that steers the debate on the future of the maritime security architecture in the region. Now is the time to take further responsibilities and start the debate on how the Seychelles can contribute together with partners such as India and the United Arab Emirates to the future maritime security architecture in the region. This will also imply to ask when the Seychelles are ready to become a role model and make the move from the receiver of training to becoming a training and donor nation. Will the Seychelles soon be one of the big three in the future of counter-piracy and maritime security?