Coordinated efforts by stakeholders helped curb piracy

London: Noting that coordinated actions by independent players including India have helped enhance security of cargo vessels in the Gulf of Aden, the European Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) feels that more assets should be deployed by stakeholders to curb piracy at high seas.

Unlike the European forces and the NATO, India along with Russia, China and Japan operates independently there and recently started coordinating their patrols to provide security cover to more number of ships passing through the pirate-infested waters.

The EUNAVFOR, which operates a fleet of at least four warships under Operation Atalanta in the Gulf of Aden, has now been granted permission by the European Union to destroy pirate logistics bases situated along the Somali coastline without putting their boots on the ground.

Around 25 warships from various countries and groups operate in the vast region of 2.5 million square miles and "more warships there will be a bigger deterrent" against pirates, EUNAVFOR Operation Commander Rear Admiral Duncan L Potts told a group of Indian reporters here.

He was asked if the EUNAVFOR wanted India and other independent players to deploy more assets there. The officer said warships of India, China and Japan have started coordinated escort patrols of cargo vessels, which has helped in optimum utilisation of resources available for fight against the scourge.

The warships of India and other two countries coordinate under the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) arrangement of the EU under which all other forces deployed there keep each other updated through real time sharing of intelligence.

Indian forces have been deployed in the Gulf of Aden from October 2008 and operate independently there. India has been advocating for a UN-led operation there but the EU and America-led Navies have been continuing there on their own.

Potts said after naval forces started concentrating on the Gulf of Aden, Somali pirates have started carrying out attacks in the Northeast Indian Ocean Region which leaves vast areas "uncovered".

He said the EU has granted permission to its naval forces deployed mainly to provide security to World Food Programme (WFP) to destroy the logistic dumps and bases of Somali pirates along the Somali coast. "We were granted the permission about two weeks back and an extension of two more years to continue this Operation Atalanta there but we will be careful enough to not put our boots on ground there," the Rear Admiral said.

He said the aim of this policy is to create a disruption in the business model of pirate groups who are making little investments to earn huge benefits without the involvement of much risk.

EU officials said work was also being initiated to strengthen the coast guards and judicial systems of Somalia`s neighbouring countries such as Tanzania, the Seychelles, Kenya and Djibouti so that they can bring to justice the apprehended pirates. They said Somali troops belonging to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) were also being provided training so that they can also take up the task of providing security and act as deterrence against youth joining ranks with the pirates.

Rear Admiral Potts said the EU forces are also employing assets such as maritime patrol aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to keep an eye on pirate activity in the region to get smart intelligence about pirates. He said this year so far 27 piracy-related incidents have taken place in six of which pirates were successful and nine were disrupted by the warships of the EUNAVFOR.

The EUNAVFOR gets its warships and aerial platforms for operations from countries including Belgium, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, The United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and Luxembourg.