While in Brussels, Rear Admiral Tarrant, Commander of the EU naval mission in Somalia (EUNAVFOR Atalanta), took a moment to answer questions posed by B2, after a briefing. At first, far from the vision as¬†an admiral¬†can be, we imagine Bob Tarrant’s hands dirty … trying to lead his troops behind a desk talking to journalists. Direct, straightforward, yet understands – when it comes to addressing the economic interests of the mission – the global vision of the situation. Including the “business model” of pirates, about which we are particularly interested, such is the need to maintain a naval force in the area.
Piracy, has it disappeared from the area?
The pirates still exist and they are very active, there are still 54 hostages held together with those on the Naham 3. Some were brought on board after the Albedo sank. This is done in horrible conditions. Because these people do not see the humanitarian side of everything. They still hold these people hoping for one thing: the ransom money. The motivations of piracy are still very much alive. Their communities apparently have no alternative on how they live.
Would you say that piracy can return?
We have a large enough control, but not all of the sea (…) The embers to start the fire are still there. If allowed to restart, it will start all over [the region] again. Groups are independent of each other. We have identified three main groups. From what we know, (the pirates) still have the resources to continue to operate. We made ??it more difficult for them to exploit their “business model”. But it still exists. And if conditions return, they will return to piracy.
Is piracy their only activity?
If you look at the “big fish” behind the “small” pirates, they are criminals. They think about how to make money¬†easily¬†through crime. And piracy is a method. It would not surprise me that they are involved in smuggling or other activities at sea or on land. If we give them the easy life at sea, I’m sure they will return to piracy. Look at the gangs they have, the amounts that are paid in ransom … that is enough.
How much do you estimate precisely their resources?
These resources come from ransoms. I’m not an expert. But they have significant amounts, hundreds of millions of euros in ransom, perhaps 150 million. Including 10 million recently. And this amount can alone, amongst many, many pirate groups.
(*)¬†”With the¬†mission ¬†to destroy¬†logistics bases ashore (conducted in May 2012) we hit investors, they will not have the ransom and therefore no return on the money invested. Each group of pirates (Pirate Action Group) costs money, several thousand dollars if not more, allocated between the fuel, water, food, boats, pirates. With the¬†destruction¬†mission carried out last year, they cannot get on the beach but must go further inland. Which makes the pirate business model less attractive to investors.”
What is the future for the mission after 2014? Should we extend the mission?
Do not underestimate the problem of piracy. We must support a force that will be able to deter and disrupt their activities. It is the interest of Somalia to have a secure sea, and since they cannot do so themselves, the force must remain in place as the pirate action, the types of groups and the money they have created a lot of instability in Somalia. This is also in the interests of Somalia to benefit from a secure environment that does not destabilize the country if piracy was still at its summit. Most other activities that the EU has in Somalia would not work.
Other means are necessary?
To perform our mission we need this level of ships – four ships – plus those involved (Russia China, NATO, Korea). The reason for this number: it is the threat that piracy may resurface, but also because we have to cover a huge area. To keep a ship up close quarters to Somalia permanently, you must go to the other ships that replenish and support. This is hard work. And we rely on the great support that we are given by the Member States. They are very supportive because piracy affects the heart of the interests of the European Union. It affects the humanitarian position of the EU in the sense that it provides food and protection as is the case on the vessels of the World Food Programme (WFP). But it also¬†very significantly¬†affects trade, ranging from Europe to the Middle East and Asia, and in the other direction through the Gulf of Aden. This is an essential interest of the EU.”
What are the difficulties in maintaining the budget of the mission or to find ships in times of crisis?
“I have enough money to fight against piracy (…) We do not have a¬†problem of¬†funding or to find ships. The threat against which the EU protects is a threat to prosperity. If the industry loses confidence and sending more ships through the Gulf of Aden, it will increase the cost of trade and transport from Europe, very significantly. So it is essential, and the Member States have many interests to always have this power in the region. Right now I think we demand the right level of forces. Member States, despite the difficulties (budget), do a lot, whether maritime assets (ships) or by men. We have excellent sailors in Europe. And we rely on them. ”
(*) Item added the spokesman