The resurgent piracy attacks off the vast Somali coastline is a result of the growing insecurity in the Horn of Africa region, which calls for renewed security partnership to defeat, a commander of an international naval task force against piracy has said.
Commander Jacqui Sheriff, Spokesperson for the European Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) operating off the Somali coastline to deter piracy along the Indian Ocean coastline and in the Gulf of Aden, said pirates have felt the need to return to sea in the middle of heightened insecurity in recent months.
“The EU NAVFOR warships and maritime patrol aircraft are continuing to work with maritime partners to deter armed pirate attacks,” Sherriff said in a recent interview.
The EU NAVFOR and China’s PLA Navy have formed the bedrock of international naval collaboration to defeat rampant acts of piracy along the Indian Ocean coastline and the Gulf of Aden.
The Chinese navy was instrumental in the rescue of an Indian vessel, Al Kausar, which was hijacked on April 3 as it headed to the Port of Bossasso.
This was the second such incident in weeks after several months of calm in a region where up to 237 attacks were reported during the peak piracy period in 2011.
“Given the insecurity in the Horn of Africa region, pirates have perhaps felt that there could be opportunities at sea to attack and take ship for ransom,” Sherriff said.
An unknown number of pirates attacked the Indian freight vessel before it was rescued by a team of elite Chinese naval officers who also rescued the 19 crewmembers.
Sherriff said the Chinese PLA Navy warships in the area have made a contribution to efforts to deter piracy in the Horn of Africa region for some time now.
The EU NAVFOR warships in the region have been contributing to the efforts to stamp out piracy in the region. However, the area of operation is considered too vast to completely patrol, naval experts say.
She said the EU NAVFOR continued to cooperate with partners to deter piracy in the region, which is critical to international trade.
Beijing deployed its navy to join the international effort against piracy in 2008 after a series of piracy attacks, which included three Chinese vessels.
The Chinese navy has been providing escort services to Chinese ship, escorts to relief and other humanitarian supplies including the World Food Program (WFP) consignments and ship owned by Chinese companies as they transit through the Gulf of Aden.
In 2016, the Chinese authorities confirmed the PLA dispatched 21 task groups, involving 62 ships and 42 helicopters to protect 6,056 vessels, including 8 vessels carrying WFP food shipments to the region, according to a PLA navy briefing paper.
At least 1,500 Chinese ship transit through the Gulf of Aden.
The EU naval force, whose mandate has been extended to 2018 by the EU last December, has vowed to continue working with its partners, including the PLA navy, to keep seafarers and vessels safe.
Sherriff attributed the relative calm from piracy attacks in the last few months to the vigilance practiced by owners of shipping lines and the successes of the naval operation.
Efforts to ensure a sustainable end to the piracy attacks have also been bolstered by the training of Somali coast guards.
However, Sherriff said while the Somali forces were working to improve their maritime capabilities, there was need to further provide additional training and logistical support.
“The Somali authorities appreciate the support given by the EU and other missions that operate in the region to provide maritime security and training to local forces,” she said.