Illegal charcoal smuggling earns terrorists millions warns maritime security conference

Terrorists are making nearly £6m a year by smuggling charcoal illegally out of Somalia, a conference on maritime security has heard.

It is estimated terrorist organisations such as Al-Shabaab in Somalia, where there has been a United Nations Security Council ban on exporting charcoal since 2012, tax and smuggle 3.5m bags a year which is often marketed as legitimate to buyers in Gulf nations.

Royal Navy Commodore Steve Dainton opened the conference attended by the multinational maritime security coalition Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and said the estimated wholesale value of smuggled Somalia charcoal is £117m a year.

“It is important we stop the illegal trade in charcoal,” Cdre Dainton said.

Not only will that cut off a source of funding to Somali terrorists, but it will also slow down the deforestation of part of Somalia.

Commodore Steve Dainton RN

“Not only will that cut off a source of funding to Somali terrorists, but it will also slow down the deforestation of part of Somalia.”

A further impact of the scale of charcoal smuggling is the estimate that there will be no trees left in Somalia by the year 2060. One-and-a-half million acacia trees are felled annually.

The conference discussed ways the CMF can disrupt the illicit trade and seize suspicious dhows, a type of vessel common to the Middle East.

Captain Saleh Alfodary KCG, Commander of Combined Task Force 152 which hosted the conference, said: “This conference is a starting point for further discussion and relationship building in our effort to counter this source of terrorist financing; it is our shared interest to achieve the CTF 152 mission: a safe and prosperous Gulf.”

A second conference called Shared Awareness and De-confliction (Shade) was also held looking at anti-piracy and the illegal smuggling of narcotics and weapons.

Cdre Dainton added: “Shade provides the perfect opportunity for the maritime community to meet and discuss the on-going and combined efforts of our counter piracy operations.

“Information sharing and collaboration are key to ensuring maritime security.”

The conference comes as Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon was involved in four drugs busts last month, including two in 48 hours, along an area of the Gulf known as ‘Hash Highway’.

The Portsmouth-based ship seized a total of 13.3 tonnes of drugs during the first three months of its deployment.