Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Freight Ships Arriving Safe As Anti Pirate Policy Supports Shipping And Defence

Long Slow Road to Recovery for Somalia under the Wing of the World
Shipping News Feature

SOMALIA– The master of the Masar Trade looked happy for once as his cargo was offloaded at the Berbera quayside. “This is the very first time I have felt safe shipping into Somali waters” he said, nearby the Brandenburg class frigate FGS Emden was moored waiting for the discharging of freight and humanitarian aid to be completed before accompanying the older ship back to southern Somali waters.

The EU military operation, EUNAVFOR Somalia, saw inception in December 2008. For many of the officers and crew aboard the multi national task force ships it has proved a frustrating experience but in December the Council of the EU extended the mandate of the military operation until the 12th of December this year – few believe it will not be necessary to extend the deadline once again.

Accompanying every vessel through the pirate infested waters is virtually an impossible task. The area has proved simply too large to cover every vessel at all times and the restrictive rules of engagement have meant that even if suspects are captured, the purely circumstantial nature of the evidence against them means their inevitable release. In latter days a gunboat would have fired first and asked questions afterwards, not a luxury allowed to skippers like Commander Ulrich Brosowsky, skipper of the Emden.

Just this last voyage of the Masar Trade illustrates the measures necessary to ensure safe passage. In their sworn duty to protect not only vessels of the World Food Programme (WFP)like the Masar Trade but any vulnerable shipping sailing the Gulf of Aden, which, given the high number of ponderous container ships and bulk carriers in transit can prove a daunting task. The WFP vessel sailed from Mogadishu on the 28th January accompanied by the HS Salamis, a frigate of the Hellenic Navy, on the 6th February the Greek ship turned away into the Indian Ocean as the Emden took up the escort duty near Socotra Island for the final few days into the mouth of the Gulf.

The necessity of such precautions were illustrated again this week as, in the same area, the MV Barakaale came under attack from a bevy of skiff borne pirates. Fortunately the proximity of the USS Faragut, an Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer meant a helicopter was immediately despatched to end the incident and a ships boat apprehended eight “suspects”. The Faragut is not the ship one wants to mess with, less than five years old she is much larger than the traditional breed and equipped with every piece of technology one can imagine. On secondment with Combined Task Force 151 stopping and apprehending suspects is comparatively simple – successful prosecutions and eliminating the core problems quite another.

A month ago the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU decided to set up an operation under the auspices of the Common Security Defence Policy (CSDP) to assist in training the National Security Forces of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia. This is intended to strengthen the Somali security forces by setting up training camps, particularly in Uganda, to enable the 2000 recruits plus officers to function as an efficient military force to maintain order in the country and protect the aid programme as it distributes assistance inland.

To an interested observer it can prove very confusing and frustrating when one wishes to ascertain who exactly is protecting what in the Gulf of Aden and off the eastern Somali coastline. EUNAVFOR Somalia and Atalanta, CTF151, Nato, the UN, the Americans, Japanese and Chinese all have a place in the scheme of things and, fortunately, the commanders in the field seem to be capable of coordinating far better than the politicians away from the action who often seem to be more concerned for their own position than that of those who are in need of protection. Let us hope that this year will see full coordination at the top to ensure the resupply of the country without the constant spectre of piracy. Only when ordinary Somali citizens enjoy a reasonable quality of life will the piracy situation be fully resolved.

Photo :- USS Faragut