EU Naval Force, IMO warn of continued, although diminished, piracy threat

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Somali-based piracy remains a threat to international shipping and there is no room for complacency where pirates are concerned, according to the European Union Naval Force and International Maritime Organisation.

The Operation Commander of the EU Naval Force, Major General Martin Smith MBE, visited the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Koji Sekimizu, at the IMO headquarters in London on 26 November.

Meeting to discuss the current situation off the Horn of Africa, the two leaders agreed that naval forces are still very much required in the West Indian Ocean, and that merchant ships should continue to apply IMO guidance and Best Management Practices with diligence.

To that end, Sekimizu welcomed the extension of the EU’s Operation Atalanta counter-piracy mandate to the end of 2016, which was announced in Brussels at the end of last week.

The EU Naval Force’s main tasks are to escort merchant vessels carrying humanitarian aid for the World Food Programme (WFP) and vessels of AMISOM as they transit along the Somali coast, and to deter and disrupt piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. EU Naval Force units also monitor fishing activity off the coast of Somalia.

According to the International Maritime Bureau, to date this year there have been only 10 incidents of piracy reported off Somalia. Around 40 hostages are still being held. On the other side of the African continent the number of incidents reported in Nigeria has also dropped noticeably down to 13 in the first nine months of the year compared to 29 in the same period last year.

Elsewhere in the Gulf of Guinea, Ghana recorded four incidents this year compared with none in 2013. This includes the hijacking of two product tankers – and theft of their cargoes – and a fishing vessel and the taking hostage of 86 crew members.

The IMB notes pirate attacks on the world’s seas have fallen for the third consecutive year but small tanker hijacks are escalating in South-East Asia.

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