Tuesday, May 15, 2012

EU Force Hits Pirate Bases from the Air

Helicopters Strafe Vessels on the Beaches
Shipping News Feature

SOMALIA – Pirates woke to the chopping sound of rotor blades this morning as a task force from the EU Naval Force attacked vessels pulled up onto beaches and lying at anchor. Although operational details remain classified an EU Navfor spokesman told us that several vessels had been destroyed and we can surmise that the miscreants were given suitable warning as we are assured there were ‘absolutely zero’ casualties on either side.

Although the EU has remained tight lipped about how many and which of the nine warships it has in the region were involved it is known that the raids certainly included attacks in the area of Haradheere, a known pirate stronghold and local reports indicate skiffs destroyed along with fuel and arms dumps.

The change in tactics reflects the decision taken on 23rd March 2012 by the Council of the European Union to allow the EU Naval Force to take disruptive action against known pirate supplies on the shore. Previously the forces involved had only a brief to deter would be hijackers whilst they carried out their primary mission of protecting aid convoys en route to the country. As reported here many times previously the huge increase in incidents of piracy meaning over 300 crew are still hostages in Somalia has pressurised governments world wide to step up the fight.

Today’s operation was conducted in accordance with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1851 together with the full support of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and the operation was described as ‘focused, precise and proportionate’ in an EU press release. Speaking about the operation, the Operation Commander of the EU Naval Force, Rear Admiral Duncan Potts said:

“We believe this action by the EU Naval Force will further increase the pressure on, and disrupt pirates’ efforts to get out to sea to attack merchant shipping and dhows. The local Somali people and fishermen – many of whom have suffered so much because of piracy in the region, can be reassured that our focus was on known pirate supplies and will remain so in the future.

“The EU Naval Force action against pirate supplies on the shoreline is merely an extension of the disruption actions carried out against pirate ships at sea, and Operation Atalanta remains committed to fighting piracy off the Horn of Africa and the humanitarian mission of protecting World Food Programme ships that bring vital aid to the Somali people.”

The Admiral was keen to emphasise that no EU Naval Force ‘boots’ went ashore during the operation and EU Navfor pointed out that, with merchant vessels attacked up to 1,750 miles off the Somali coast, preventing the criminals getting out to sea is a crucial step in removing their impunity ashore and to further the success of counter-piracy operations.

The action has been welcomed by all sections of the commercial ocean freight community and commenting on today’s attack, Dave Heindel, chair of the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) seafarers’ section, said:

“This appears to have been a timely, considered and professional operation. We hope that it will be followed by many more disruptive actions. Limited though the effects of any one single operation can be, it sets a precedent for future actions. It is particularly welcome in a week that has seen increased use of weapons and violence by pirates.”

Photo: French Tigre helicopter in action.