Saturday, February 23, 2013

Fight against piracy: Nothing is gained off Somalia

While attacks on ships taking alarming proportions in West Africa, the situation has greatly improved off Somalia. In 2008, some sensational diversions, such as the French cruising yacht Le Ponant, had highlighted the explosion of piracy off the Horn of Africa. And the realization that the rise of this phenomenon directly threatened the global economy, a huge flow of goods (raw materials, manufactured goods ...) off the coast of Somalia. Oil and gas from the Persian Gulf, containerships, bulk carriers and roll-on/roll-off providing links Asia and Europe, working fishermen in the Indian Ocean ... Europe, in particular, played there the security of supply, 30% of the oil it consumes passing, for example in the area.

That is why, at the initiative of France, the UN adopted resolutions to provide a legal framework to fight against piracy. Europe has responded to this challenge by creating Operation Atalanta. Staff a strategic and operational, consisting of 120 people from 27 European countries (as well as invited countries), is located in Northwood, United Kingdom. His arm is a naval air force (EU-NAVFOR Task Force or 465) deployed off Somalia with a tactical command running (currently Spain, who succeeded to pass the baton and Italy in April in Portugal ). This force, which the French Navy is the first contributor in terms of days at sea (followed by Germany and Spain), is responsible for preventing piracy, secure commercial traffic in the Gulf of Aden (linking Indian Ocean to the Red Sea) and protect convoys World Food Programme (WFP) delivering humanitarian assistance in Somalia, but also the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

Protection of a cargo of AMISOM (© NAVY)

Contribution country days at sea (EU-NAVFOR ©)

Area of ​​operation Atalanta (EU-NAVFOR ©)

 Piracy recorded in 2012 (EU-NAVFOR ©)

An international armada eve of the Indian Ocean

In the wake of Atalanta, NATO's Operation Ocean Shield activated, while the Americans and their allies, as part of the international naval force in charge of the fight against terrorism and illicit trafficking (Task Force 150) Red Sea and Indian Ocean, decided to detach a portion of these resources within a new structure, the TF 151, dedicated to the fight against piracy. In parallel, some countries, independently, is also deployed for this purpose naval forces, such as Russia, India, Japan, China and South Korea. For the security of the area is a worldwide issue, since it depends on the stability of the region and the free movement of goods, maritime traffic is the backbone of international trade (90% of goods pass at one time or another by sea). Thus, tens of thousands of ships pass each year in the Gulf of Aden, the crossing of which was secured by the establishment of a corridor of protected navigation, CRTI (International Recommended Transit Corridor). 

French frigate escorting a freighter (© NAVY)

It is therefore a veritable armada, with dozens of buildings in the area, supported by substantial air, which is set up off the coast of Somalia. To this were added protection teams onboard positioned directly on merchant ships or fishing vessels to ensure their safety in hazardous areas. Many times, these EPE helped repel attacks, becoming an extremely deterrent for pirates and a guarantee of security for shipowners, including fishing.

Legal structures and prison to treat pirates

At the same time, the legal framework has evolved and various agreements were signed with neighboring countries to bring to justice pirates apprehended by the military. This feature of the European naval force, compared to other naval forces, gives remarkable efficiency. Previously, unless national prosecutions, the pirates were almost always released for lack of structures to try and imprison them. Agreements have thus been signed with Kenya, the Seychelles, Mauritius or Djibouti. But some countries have become more prison capacity to support the pirates and refuse to deal with new business. Aid, especially in Europe, are made while a program of building prisons in Somalia in order to eventually allow the pirates apprehended off to be tried and imprisoned in their country of origin, while transferring those incarcerated elsewhere.

Pirates captured by French sailors (© NAVY)

Weapons seized on a pirate ship (© NAVY)

Formality transfer of pirates apprehended Maurice (© NAVY)

Generalization of good seamanship as a success factor

A little more than four years after the start of the international mobilization, the results are instructive.Whereas stronger piracy actions, up to 50 merchant ships and a thousand sailors were held hostage along the Somali coast in January 2011, there were more than 36 ships and 720 crew members . A figure which fell last month to four ships and 108 sailors. "We have seen a huge drop in piracy in the region," says the French against Admiral Eric Dupont, Deputy Commander, that is to say number 2 of the General Staff of EU NAVFOR- Northwood. The good results are a credit to the efforts made by the countries involved in the fight against piracy to mobilize significant resources on carrier battle zone.

The cons-Admiral Eric Dupont (EU-NAVFOR ©)

But also, and perhaps above all, the generalization of "Best Practices Maritime", a series of good practices implemented by the Merchant Navy. Around hazardous areas if possible, pass through sensitive areas at full speed, install barbed wire around the boat to make it more difficult collision avoidance maneuvers during the attacks, lay aboard a citadel where the crew can refuge and remain out of reach of pirates if the boat is taken, make themselves known to the authorities and report regularly on its position ... "The reason for the drop in the number of hijackings is directly related to the spread of good practices," said Admiral Dupont.

Civilian ship with barbed wire (© NAVY)

However, they are inseparable from the on-site presence of the marines. Because for many attacks, they only serve to delay the collision. By the time the crew prevents the military and took refuge in the citadel, where sailors can, most of the time, keep control of the boat. Hackers, even if they manage to board, then did not have the opportunity to maneuver the vessel or to quickly hostages before the warship comes closest to intercept. That is why most of the time, they abandon the boat and try to escape on their boats, but are pursued by the military, which may soon be without risk to the crew, call the fugitives.
Note that the surveillance of maritime traffic in the region also improved through the establishment of a center from which the ships register (identity, cargo, route followed) before entering the area. Now are 4000 boats and know each month from the MCHOA (Maritime Security Centre - Horn of Africa), to implement a voluntary naval control embryo and thus better coordinate the protection of the merchant fleet.

Maritime patrol aircraft (© NAVY)

The issue of EPE

Complementary to the implementation of good practices, the use of onboard protection teams is also one of the reasons for the success of the fight against piracy. These EPE were first exclusively military, illustrating the French navy in particular by deploying commercial vessels and fishing vessels flying the tricolor units from the force of marines and commandos, reinforced over time by sailors from other specialties and specially trained for this purpose. Apart from great navies have this ability, some countries that do not have adequate naval resources, are also involved in anti-piracy efforts in deploying teams of trained military missions EPE. This was for instance the case of Estonia and maybe soon in Serbia.

Civilian ship bénéfiant protection of EPE (© NAVY)

But for states, EPE are a human and financial investment heavy. Despite financial participation arms, numbers are limited and boarding EPE state does not solve the problem of ships registered in foreign countries. However, the bulk of the fleet controlled by shipowners do not beat national flag. In addition, operational requirements, both for companies and for military, may have prevented the boarding soldiers.Under these conditions, private protection companies popping up and offer their services to shipowners, who now use extensively. Often formed by former military, private EPE contribute to the fall of the piracy ship provided no such protection board having been diverted in 2012.

Team of privacy protection (EU-NAVFOR ©)

But the use of private security guards poses significant legal concerns and, while many companies are deemed to be serious, others are probably less. Obviously with a risk of smudging whose legal management problem. To date, no proven cases have been revealed but the rumor about possible deadly skirmishes. Impossible to verify rumors since the sea has this ability to quickly erase all traces of a drama.Still, the question of the regulation of private EPE, which now seem inevitable as indispensable, is quite clear. "The presence of EPE on ships is one of the reasons for the success of the fight against piracy.Indeed it appears that vessels having on board a team of protection are not pirated, even if they are attacked. Conversely, the captured ships do not embarked EPE. The EU-NAVFOR promotes movement accompanying use protection teams by private owners. But we must frame this movement to better master. The idea, ultimately, is to set up some sort of certification, "says Admiral Dupont.

French frigate with a helicopter and fast boat (© PA)

Escort merchant vessels (© NAVY)

Maintaining powerful naval assets essential

Nevertheless, observance of good seamanship and the presence of EPE are not sufficient. It is also necessary to ensure that the device is effective on area maintain significant naval aviation resources. It is the combination of these three factors is the key outcomes. While surveillance aircraft and maritime patrol combing the ocean in search of pirates and guide surface means, helicopters on board the frigates and other gray buildings can intervene further and quickly in case of attack. Usually carrying a sniper, they can directly intercept the boats, including destroying their engines if they do not respond to orders to stop, or just by their mere presence, mean pirates, when they reached up on board a civilian ship or preparing to do so, a warship is approaching, causing them to leak. Without this military presence, the pirates would therefore time to take control of the boats discussed, for example by introducing into the citadels by torches, a process which takes time. Ditto for vessels with EPE, which face the pirates give up not only for fear of retaliation, but also, and perhaps above all, because they know that the storm will last, leaving again time for fleets military to intervene. Without them, we can easily imagine that the attackers could opt for harassment tactics to exhaust or to surprise a few guards to protect cargo and other oil. The presence of naval preventive actions thus lends credibility to the maritime industry and to limit the level of violent attacks.

Sniper on a Panther (© NAVY)

Interception of pirates by French sailors (© NAVY)

However, in the current budgetary difficulties for many marine and while hijacking off Somalia are experiencing impressive waterfall, some countries may be tempted to reduce their efforts in the fight against piracy. "The attempt can be great for States to send their vessels elsewhere but do not drop our guard. We need buildings on this area because presence is a cavalry ready to intervene and deters hackers from attacking or pushing their actions. For best practices, such as EPA, have a retarding effect, "said Admiral Dupont .

Phenomenon but still dangerous content

Despite multiple interceptions and arrests, accompanied by the seizure or destruction of equipment collision (grappling, weapons, fuel, skiffs ...), piracy is not neutralized. Certainly, attacks off the Horn of Africa have significantly decreased (29 in 2012 against 151 in 2011) and the number of vessels hijacked was halved over this period (5 in 2012 against 29 in 2011) as figures collected by the EU-NAVFOR.Similarly, gains from ransoms would have collapsed (34 million in 2009, 80 million in 2010, $ 147 million in 2011 and only 36 million in 2012. But the pirates are still there, their activity does not require an investment Light and candidates willing to try their luck off many. For Somalia, where prevailing insecurity and famine, a recruitment pool is almost infinite. "threat and response capabilities Somali pirates, heavily armed, remain very strong. continuing presence of navies in the region is vital to ensure that Somali piracy continues to decline. This positive trend would be reversed if the military vessels should leave the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast, "said the Office Maritime International.

Evolution of attacks and hijackings (EU-NAVFOR ©)

The radius of action of pirates increases (EU-NAVFOR ©)

Hunting boats mother earth and actions

In addition, hackers adapt to the control means, and through the use of boats mothers (boats or vessels used logistic bases for fast skiffs used in attacks) operate farther away. Initially confined to the Gulf of Aden and the east coast approaches Somali piracy has spread to a large part of the Indian Ocean. Thus, attacks were found more than 1,200 miles from the Somali coast into the Mozambique Channel and west of India, not to mention recent forays into the Gulf of Oman. Faced with this, the Marines can not control every square kilometer of a huge area, whose surface is five times larger than the Mediterranean. Hunting mother ships (which may be large boats or dhows, but also hijacked vessels, such as tugs, fishing boats or merchant ships) was launched. But it is complex and delicate. It should be an important intelligence work to identify and locate suspects in the middle of an important maritime traffic, while in the case of hijacked ships, crews are often held hostage.

Destruction of a pirate mother ship (EU-NAVFOR ©)

Capacity for action of the EU-NAVFOR have also strengthened last year when the European Council, at Atalanta to extend until 12 December 2014, decided March 23, 2012 to add a Action pane to ground targets. Following an agreement between the same month the European Union and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia, the European military can now initiate actions from the sea towards the Somali territory to destroy the material of pirates. The first raid of this kind was carried out in May 2012 by a helicopter of the EU-NAFOR. During an overnight operation, the device part of a frigate stationed offshore, aimed skiffs pirates as well as mother ships in Galmudug region on the eastern coast of Somalia.

A holistic approach with the aim of rebuilding Somalia

For Admiral Dupont, successful actions against piracy is undeniable, but the battle is not yet won. "We must not be a victim of our success, which may be reversible if we drop our guard. The effect is to maintain and do not lose sight of that mission as Atalante only address symptoms. To solve the problem, we must address the root causes of piracy, which lie on the ground. " These cases are summarized, of course, the political situation in Somalia, a country devastated by civil war since 1991. If a central government was restored in the capital, Mogadishu, remains fragile as the country is still largely divided and faces separatist tendencies in several regions, run by warlords. Despite international aid, the humanitarian situation remains dire, with more than a million people displaced within and another million have fled to neighboring countries, more than two million refugees to a total population of 10 million people. A major humanitarian crisis that gave rise to different trafficking and piracy. "We can get by with the reconstruction of Somalia, which is also part of an overall approach taken by the international community, especially the European Union."


Significant resources are also invested in the restoration of the rule of law in Somalia. While WFP convoys can feed a large part of the population, African troops of AMISOM, founded in 2007, is responsible for supporting the Transitional Federal Government (GTF) working towards the implementation of a security strategy to include ensuring proper distribution of humanitarian aid. AMISOM is also in charge of an important part of training Somali police. Europe, for its part, launched in April 2010 a training mission (EUTM) of Somali security forces to create the nucleus of a new national army, and thus support the GTF. In July 2012, the European Council, in addition, agreed to launch a civilian mission to support the establishment of regional maritime capacities in the countries of the Horn of Africa and in Somalia, the training of a police force coast. EUCAP Nestor is thus to ensure that countries can secure themselves their territorial waters and thus help in the fight against piracy. The naval forces engaged in EU-NAVFOR also contribute to these efforts by training with Marines and Coast Guard riparian countries.

Cooperation activities and training in countries surrounding (© PA)

Cooperation activities and training in countries surrounding (© PA)

Develop Somali ports and create economic opportunities

At the same time, the international community wishes to support, through improved security conditions, the economic recovery in Somalia. In this, the restoration of maritime trade and port activity is fundamental. That is why the goal is to build on the great Somali ports (Berbera and Bossaso in the Gulf of Aden, Mogadishu and Kismayo in the Indian Ocean) to restart from the sea an economic activity which gradually irrigate the inland produce wealth, generate business creation and therefore jobs, with the aim to enable people to regain a normal part of life in a peaceful environment. "We need to build on four major Somali ports to boost the economy. There will also, in this context ,   probably best development opportunities for European companies, "said Admiral Dupont.

In the same vein, the European naval force is no longer content to hunt pirates and escorting humanitarian convoys. It also supports the monitoring of fishing Somalia, which have long been skimmed with impunity due to lack of state to ensure the sovereignty of territorial waters. Plunder which was, moreover, one of the roots of the resurgence of piracy, Somali fishermen attacking originally foreign vessels using their fisheries resources. Contributing to the monitoring of Somali waters and deploying assistance missions on land, the Europeans intend thus to show that they are also there to help Somalia and its people to rebuild to regain their independence.
A fundamental action whose success, especially conditioned by the accession of the population is essential to hope, over time, put an end to piracy in this area.


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