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SC: Maritime Security

Statement by Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide at the open debate 'Enhancing maritime security: a case for international cooperation', 9 August 2021.

The ocean is of vital importance to Norway. It is central to our history, our livelihood, and development. Safeguarding the security of our seafarers and protecting the health of the ocean - governed by the Law of the Sea - are cornerstones of Norway’s foreign policy. We depend on the oceans for much of what sustains us as human beings.

In her address to the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Solberg underlined that 80 % of the world’s trade is transported by ship, including food, medical equipment and energy products. Disruption of maritime lines of supply therefore has the potential to threaten both the world economy and global security. 

The oceans are key to reaching many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. And yet, they are becoming warmer and more acidic. This is harmful to us all.  

We talk about the seven seas or the five oceans. That should not obscure the fact that there is only one ocean. One ocean of seemingly boundless resources that all nations depend on, but one that is facing a range of threats, one important being piracy.

But there are also other considerable threats. I condemn the attack on the merchant vessel Mercer Streef off the coast of Oman, and would like to express also Norway’s condolences to Romania and the United Kingdom for the loss of lives of their citizens. Recurring attacks on vessels in the region are a threat to maritime security and deeply worrying.

I commend India for bringing maritime security to the agenda of the Security Council, because piracy is a global threat to the security of seafarers, to international trade and development, and to international peace and security.

The Gulf of Guinea has emerged as a hotbed of pirates. In 2020, there were 135 kidnappings for ransom at sea.  130 of these took place in the Gulf of Guinea. Attacks are becoming more brutal, and they take place further offshore.

There have been positive developments since the adoption of Security Council resolution 2018 in 2011:

States have signed the Yaoundé Code of Conduct, a regional operational framework has been put in place, and investments have been made in equipment, training and personnel. 

Despite this, piracy remains a major threat in the region. The risks facing seafarers from all parts of the world have become more serious. Piracy is also a significant obstacle to development.

To fully understand the detrimental impact piracy has on the region, Norway supports a study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which will be presented later this year.

It is important to identify and address the root causes of piracy. But we cannot afford to delay taking action: the issue of piracy is simply too serious. It is hard to see how legislation relating to illegal fishing, pollution or smuggling can be enforced, if we fail in the fundamental task of protecting seafarers and vessels from piracy and safeguard their right to safe passage.

A great deal has been achieved since 2011. But more efforts are needed to counter the negative developments. While regional cooperation is crucial, it cannot replace the individual responsibility of Member States. Regional cooperation cannot be effective without the full commitment of all those taking part.

Ultimately, each Member State has a sovereign obligation to combat piracy. The Security Council also has a role to play. It can and should take robust action to make the oceans safe and secure.