With the news of contractor Lodewyk Pietersen being killed by his PMPF force that he was mentoring, I wanted to bring some attention to the company he was working for. Apparently Sterling Corporate Services replaced Saracen International as the prime vendor for training and mentoring Puntland’s anti-piracy force.
Of course this came out last February and I missed this news somehow. Either way, better late than never as they say, and thanks to a reader for pointing out this information.
So who is Sterling Corporate Services? From the sounds of it, it looks like most of the guys that were with Saracen Int. just changed t-shirts and jumped into a new company. The UAE is still paying for the whole thing as well.
Also, the PMPF has a website which has several links to what is going on with the contract and their anti-piracy efforts on land.They even have a wikipedia entry, just so you can see the overall history of this force and what they are up to.
But as far as a website for SCS, that is a no go. Which is too bad because I could have done more to promote what these guys are doing in Puntland as opposed to finding out what they are doing after one of their guys gets killed while on an operation. With that said, if anyone from the company would like to correct the record as to what happened to your contractor, the industry and public would like to know.
The other reason why SCS should come up and speak about what happened, is because their competitors are taking advantage of this vacuum or ‘lack’ of information and spreading all sorts of negative information to discredit them. Pretty soon, rumor becomes fact, and then you get the main stream media reporting off of these rumors. So keeping quiet can sometimes do more harm than good, and especially in today’s fast paced social networked environment. At the least you should be contacting new media folks like myself, just because my readership are industry folks and the public. –Matt
Puntland counter-piracy force poised for launch
23 February 2012
by Richard Meade
An armed counter-piracy police force, funded by the UAE government and trained by private security, is poised to begin operations inside the Somali state of Puntland after previous attempts to launch such a force floundered.
Speaking exclusively to Lloyd’s List ahead of the UK-sponsored Somalia conference being held in London today, Puntland’s interior minister Abdullahi Ahmed Jama confirmed that the Puntland Maritime Police Force would be resuming operations imminently and directly targeting pirate gangs on land.
The Puntland counter-piracy force was established back in 2010, before being suspended in February last year under pressure from several UN agencies who criticised the force’s lack of transparency, the issue of arms sanctions and the lack of a legal framework to support operations.
According to Mr Jama those issues have now been resolved and the police force is now expected to resume training and recruiting with the backing of international governments.
The Puntland police force will operate with the co-operation of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia which is understood to be pursuing similar plans involving private security trained forces.
According to Mr Jama, the Puntland force is a locally recruited, armed coastal police force established to fight piracy on land and protect Somali marine resources. It has been formed, he argued, in direct response to multiple UN Security Council Resolutions and demands from the international community for the Somali authorities to build security and law enforcement institutions to address piracy.
The Puntland government has retained the services of US law firm and lobbyists Steptoe and Johnson to ensure that the re-launched counter-piracy efforts does not run into the same legal issues as before.
While initial attempts to establish an armed force were officially only ever suspended, not disbanded, the nascent force of 300 officers has been unable to engage in counter-piracy operations due to legal restrictions and has carried out only humanitarian work for the past year.
All the required paperwork for the resumption of private security training has been logged with the UN monitoring agencies and a new UAE-registered private security firm named Sterling Corporate Services has been retained to resume training of the counter-piracy troops, replacing earlier incumbent, Saracen International.
While Sterling Corporate Services features many of the same personnel involved in Saracen, officials from Steptoe and Johnson insist they represent an entirely new company that will provide a fresh start for the operation.
Suggested links between Saracen and Erik Prince, the controversial founder of international security giant Blackwater now known as Academi, have been eradicated with the switch to Sterling which is described as a private security consultant based in the UAE.
The size of the police force is yet to be established and is likely to be determined by funding, rather than political ambition, although Lloyd’s List understands that the numbers will be in the hundreds, not thousands.
Mr Jama declined to reveal a figure for the UAE donation to establish the police force, but previous attempts to set up similar forces within the TFG-controlled region saw contracts in excess of $50m being discussed.
President of Puntland Abdiraham Mohamed Mohamud Farole previously stated that international offers of funding for counter- piracy operations have not been sufficient and it is understood that he will be seeking further offers of support during the London conference this week.
News of the relaunched Puntland initiative coincided with a UN security council vote on Wednesday evening to increase an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia to nearly 18,000 troops to mobilise against extremist rebels and stabilise a country that has spent more than two decades with no functioning central government.
Speaking in London after the vote, Somali prime minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said the long-term solution to Somalia’s security problems was a robust home-grown army, navy and coastguard, and that the only enduring solution to the Al- Shabaab insurrection and chronic piracy was an economic one.
“The long-term answer to piracy lies inland,” he told reporters. “Its root causes are lawlessness and poverty. The opportunity cost for young Somalis to take to the seas is zero. Lots of lives have been lost and lots are in prison. We have to offer alternative livelihoods.”