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Thursday, 21 October 2010

On an EU pirate-hunting mission, vigilance is key

As part of the EU NAVFOR mission, the Spanish warship Infanta Christina is patrolling the shipping lanes off the coast of Somalia. The patrol ship and its crew are also there to protect UN food-aid shipments. She floats quietly in the shade of the setting son in the Mombasa harbor: the Infanta Christina, a Spanish warship heavily armed with rockets and anti-aircraft weapons. As part of the EU NAVFOR's Operation Atalanta, the ship is controlling the sea lanes in the Gulf of Aden off of the coast of Somalia. Suddenly, the ship's deck is busy and hectic. Speedboats are dropped into the water. The alarm goes up: Pirates! Marine infantry in bulletproof vests climb down the railing, armed with machine guns. Loaded up with seven men, each boat speeds off from the main ship. From the command bridge, crew members are keeping the suspected pirate ship under close surveillance with modern positioning systems.
Making the seas safe for food delivery
Moreover, more than 400,000 tons of food aid has been delivered to Somalia. The mission cost just over 8 million euros ($11 million) in the first year. The running costs of the 20 ships and planes involved are carried by the individual EU states that operate them. Of course, monitoring all of the coastal waters is impossible, but EU NAVFOR spokesman Klingvall believes the endeavor has been well worthwhile: "We have clearly made the seas here safer. There are still piracy attacks, but our military presence has limited them." The mission has been extended until 2012.Critics of Operation Atalanta complain that the pirates have merely moved their field of activity further out into the Indian Ocean. But one incontestable fact is that, in the wake of an accord with Kenya, Somali pirates have been successfully tried in court. As part of an agreement with the EU, which provided legal and tactical advice, Kenyan authorities have brought 120 pirates to trial.

Source: Deutsche Welle