GABORONE, Botswana — The Taiwanese government has contracted US maritime security solutions provider Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) to help the European Union establish the first Somali coastal radar surveillance network to help secure the Indian Ocean waters off the coast of the war-ravaged Horn of Africa country.

Under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the EU, OBP and the Taiwanese representative to the EU, Tung Kyo-yu, in Brussels last Friday, Taiwan will pay US $166,000 for the establishment of the Somali Maritime Communications Initiative (MCI).

Once established, the MCI will be used to monitor vessel movements and coordinate the security operations of the local coast guard and the European Union-led international navies involved in the counter-piracy operations on the Indian Ocean coast off Somalia.

The surveillance system will operate from five maritime communications and safety centers in Somali cities that will be set up in the coastal cities of Berbera, Bosaso, Hobyo, Kismayo and the capital Mogadishu. Taiwanese ambassador to the Tung said the joint maritime security initiative will help ensure the safety of local shipping routes and promote better port management practices in Somalia.

"It also underscores the government's commitment to promoting Taiwan as a peacemaker and provider of humanitarian aid in the global community. The centers will collaborate with international naval forces and local authorities to increase the safety of seafarers operating in the region," he added.

Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) representative James Burnell-Nugent said his organization is pleased to partner with the EU and Taiwan in improving maritime security along the Somali coast. 

"We are very happy to partner with Taiwan. This important project is intended to increase Somali ownership of its maritime domain and avoid dangerous misunderstandings between local traffic and international partners at sea," he said.

The Taiwanese donation will be used to acquire communications and security equipment together with sustainable power options to the five maritime security centers, which will coordinate regional maritime security operations.

The MCI initiative will be a major boost for the EU effort to train, equip and operationalize a Somali coast guard service, which will take over maritime security duties when the foreign naval forces deployed to fight pirates and kidnapping gangs in the Indian Ocean depart.

In July, the EU delivered six Nissan Patrol four-wheel-drive troop carriers, computers and Global Positioning Systems (GPS devices to the Somali coast guard to improve its on-shore capability and connectivity.

The donation followed the training of more than 100 Somali coast guard officers who completed a month-long navigation and basic maritime investigation course offered by the EU.

According to security experts, efforts to set up a reliable Somali coast guard are being hampered by lack of training resources, poor equipment of the trained forces and the non-payment of wages for soldiers who are eventually frustrated into joining piracy.


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