Adopting PSI/CSI Principles to Combat Piracy

It can also provide the private sector – the shipowners, insurance companies, and others – a more reasonable and clear basis to develop anti-piracy policies and procedures.

Developed by the Bush Administration to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction and other proliferation concerns, the Obama Administration should seriously consider adopting a model to combat piracy that mirrors the highly successful Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and the Container Security Initiative (CSI).  Shipboarding Agreements can be develop under the rubric of international and existing national legal norms, working in collaboration with existing and new national partners. 

Piracy off the eastern coast of Africa will continue to increase so long as the principal stakeholders – neighboring countries, flagged vessel owners, etc. –  continue to rely too much on the United Nations processes to resolve this matter.   A PSI/CSI approach to piracy would put in play a more robust response and voluntary process where affected states would implement solutions that are consistent with national legal authorities, as well as with international law and frameworks. 

Working in part with recent U.N. Security Council Resolutions on anti-piracy, Anti-Piracy Security Initiative (APSI) participants would adopt a Statement of Interdiction Principles that participants can take to combat piracy on the high seas.  Participating countries apply intelligence, diplomatic, law enforcement, military, and other resources.

An APSI, or a more robust PSI/CSI Framework that includes piracy in its statement of interdiction principles,  would be grounded in real-world legal realities.  Participating states will draw on existing legal and regulatory authorities, including export control laws, to address the growing problem of piracy.  It can also provide the private sector – the shipowners, insurance companies, and others – a more reasonable and clear basis to develop anti-piracy policies and procedures.

The PSI and CSI efforts have made it more difficult and more expensive for proliferators to engage in activities that violate U.S. and other nations’ export control regimes.  Nations affected by piracy off the coast of Africa, and elsewhere, need to do the same for pirates. 

Finally, unlike the piracy cases of the history books, modern-day piracy can involve other issues besides the mere profit motive that seemingly drives a majority of these recent cases.  This is where possibly enhancing PSI and CSI to include anti-piracy measures may make sense. 

Human trafficking, smuggling, money laundering, weapons, or the tactical use of an act of piracy as part of a larger scheme are some of the many policy, military, and legal challenges that may be presented in these matters.  Adopting a Statement of Interdiction Principles that addresses these and other issues areas will go a long way in putting in motion a more viable and transparent process for dealing with modern day acts of piracy.

The piracy issue off the coast of Africa may present an opportunity to not only deal with this menace, but expand the PSI and CSI to include other nations that should be involved in combating proliferation matters.  The Obama Administration should seize this unique opportunity.

In a related matter, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) has written President Obama recommending the use of  “U.S. military personnel on U.S. flagged merchant vessels.”  Read more about it, here.

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