by Rejimon K
Muscat:¬†The fight against Somali pirates has been so effective that they haven’t been able to mount a successful hijacking attempt since the beginning of 2013, stated a top official at the Atalanta EU NAVFOR, yesterday.
“The combined efforts exerted by EU NAVFOR, the Combined Task Force, the United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations, and the NATO Navy; the best-management practices followed by the vessels; and the precautions taken by those engaged in the shipping industry have helped to reduce the piracy activity in the region,” Commodore Jorge Novo Palma, Force Commander of Operation Atalanta, told Times of Oman aboard NRP √Ålvares Cabral, the current flagship of the mission.
According to EU NAVFOR data, there were only 11 suspicious events and three attacks.
Somali pirates had hijacked 46 ships in 2009, 47 in 2010, 25 in 2011, and five in 2012, within the region.
“In addition to thwarting pirates’ attacks, we are also protecting World Food Programme (WFP) shipments to Somalia. In 2013, the WFP aims to bring humanitarian assistance to an estimated population of 1.56 million in Somalia. Since 2008, the EU Naval Force has escorted 171 WFP shipments to Somalia, ensuring the safe delivery of more than 800,000 tonnes of aid, with a 100-per cent success rate for protection,” the commodore said.
“The regional navies, especially the Sultanate’s Navy, work in close cooperation with us,” the commodore added.
EU NAVFOR operates in an Area of Operation that covers the Southern Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and a large part of the Indian Ocean, including the Seychelles.
The Area of Operation also includes the Somali coastal territory as well as its territorial and internal waters. This represents an area of some 2 million square nautical miles (approximately 3.7 million square kilometres).
The composition of EU NAVFOR changes constantly because of the frequent rotation of units, and it varies according to the monsoon seasons in the Indian Ocean. However, it typically comprises some 1,200 personnel, 4-7 surface combat vessels, and 2-4 maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft.
“This year, there have been no hijackings. But if anyone in the network slows down operations, the pirates will strike again. The present scenario is reversible,” remarked Pedro Almeida e Silva, Lieutenant PRT Navy and Public Affairs Officer at Operation Atalanta EU NAVFOR.
On March 23, 2012, the Council of the EU extended the mandate of Operation Atalanta to December 2014. At the same time, the Council extended the Area of Operation to include the Somali coastal territory and internal waters. A budget of Euro 14.9 million was also set for the common costs of the mandate until December 2014.