Things are going to get very rough for Somali pirates in the near future, if resolutions made during the third Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) in Cape Town, South Africa, are translated into action - Digital Journal.
It must be said, judging from the determination displayed, they will. Digital Journal attended the conference, which was ended on Friday. The symposium is considered to be of key importance in coordinating the fight against pirates, as well as other criminals, such as polluters and those involved in the smuggling of human beings.
On the diplomatic front, such meetings of the commanders, or “chiefs” of navies are considered to be just below the importance of the UN. Rear Admiral Robert “Rusty” Higgs told me in an informal talk on the sidelines of the symposium that for example, the International Seapower Symposium (ISS) held every two years at the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, had as much importance in diplomatic terms as a meeting of the UN. He pointed to the fact that the top commanders of the world’s naval forces could talk about practical matters without being distracted by politics.
This determination to get things done was palpable throughout the three days and the opening evening of IONS. The German Navy trains regularly with the South African Navy, in a joint exercise series held biennially codenamed “Good Hope”. The recently-held Exercise Good Hope V was used as a test of the two navies’ counter-piracy abilities.
SA Navy chief Vice-Admiral Johannes Mudimu has called on African countries to invest more in protecting their seas from piracy - Independent Online.
Speaking at the four-day maritime security conference in Cape Town that ended at the weekend, Mudimu urged the governments of Indian Ocean countries to invest in their navies, equipping them so they have the ships and equipment necessary to patrol the “length and breadth of their territorial waters”.
“We are trying to use resources to bring stability on the Indian Ocean. Governments need to promote the training of our officers, both on land and at sea, because pirates can disguise themselves as fishermen on land and at sea,” he said.
Last year Mudimu proposed a maritime security strategy and action plan that called on Southern Africa Development Community countries to help their navies work together to overcome piracy. SADC’s justice committee is looking at what legislation would be required to get member countries to beef up their navies. Read more.
All of Qatar Liquefied Gas Co’s tankers have armed guards on board to prevent piracy, Alaa Abu Jbara, the company’s chief operating officer, said on Monday, reports Arabian Business.
No QatarGas ships have been attacked so far and the rhythm of attacks by pirates on shipping in the Gulf region is slowing down, he said at the Flame conference in Amsterdam, Bloomberg reported.
Gulf concerns including threats to shut shipping lanes, persistent piracy and volatile oil prices need a global response, the UAE's economy minister said earlier this month. Read more.
An extract of recent questions on Somalia in the UK House of Parliament:
Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to his counterparts in countries surrounding Somalia to act collectively against acts of piracy. 
Mr Bellingham: Regional engagement is at the heart of our counter-piracy strategy for piracy off the coast of Somalia. This is why we invited representatives from over 50 countries to London in February for the Conference on Somalia, including high-level representation from a number of key regional countries. As Minister for Africa, I have engaged regularly with my counterparts in these countries, and in particular I worked closely with my counterparts in Kenya, Tanzania, the Seychelles and Mauritius to secure a regional burden-sharing agreement to further our collective efforts to tackle the scourge of piracy. I am committed to ensuring that this close dialogue and cooperation with countries in the region continues.
With the recent failure of Navy anti-pirate drones early this month, the US Marine Corps is taking a more traditional stance against the Somali pirates. This month the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s (MEU) Maritime Raid Force began training at Camp Pendleton and Naval Base San Diego with Special Operations Training Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, to learn the skills needed to take back pirated ships by force - gCaptain.
The Maritime Raid Force (MRF) is a special operations force designed to carry out raids against maritime objectives including gas and oil platforms, ships and ports. “The MRF performs small scale precision raids as well as maritime interdiction operations in support of MEU operations,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jason P. Fitzgerald, MRF staff non-commissioned officer in charge, Command Element, 15th MEU.
The MRF is composed of three elements, assault, security and headquarters. The assault element, those with boots on board ship, is made up of Marines and sailors from Force Reconnaissance Company of the 15th MEU. They are assisted by servicemembers from a Security Platoon, Marines from the Command Element and sailors from a Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company fill the headquarters element. Working together they make an impressive small scale strike anti-pirate force. Read more.
Image - Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit's Maritime Raid Force (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Timothy Childers)
Germany could fly bombing missions into Somalia to destroy pirate bases, if a plan set to be discussed in cabinet on Wednesday is adopted. The idea has infuriated opposition parties who described it as senseless and dangerous, says The Local.
The European Union anti-pirate mission “Atalanta” which has for the last three years been patrolling around the Horn of Africa, currently involves up to ten ships at any one time – in an ocean area nearly the size of Europe.
Expanding the mandate to include airborne missions up to two kilometres inland to target “logistic facilities of the pirates” as the text describes it, has infuriated German opposition parties.
Green Party defence expert Omid Nouripour said it was “a bad, senseless adventure,” while his counterpart from the Social Democrats, Rainer Arnold said his party would either vote against or abstain in a parliamentary poll.
If enough of Angela Merkel’s conservative and liberal governing party members rebel, they could sink Germany’s participation in the expanded mandate.
The Bundeswehr has criticised the EU mandate expansion, expressing amazement that for example, the physical extent of the missions had already been set – giving pirates the opportunity to react by, for example, simply moving their bases further inland.
Germany provides the biggest ship of the “Atalanta” fleet, the “Berlin”, which can hold up to 230 people. The mandate expansion would only include flying missions – troops would only engage on the ground in exceptional circumstances such as rescue missions.
The German government on Wednesday approved an extension of the European Union's anti-piracy operation off the Horn of Africa to include targeting equipment stored on Somali beaches - MSN News.
The cabinet gave the green light to the expanded mission which is expected to win final approval in a parliamentary vote next month.
The EU's Operation Atalanta has deployed between five and 10 warships off the Somali coast since 2008 to escort humanitarian aid shipments and thwart pirate raids on commercial vessels using vital shipping lanes.
EU foreign ministers last month agreed to extend the mission until December 2014 and expand "the force's area of operations to include Somali coastal territory as well as its territorial and internal waters".
Warships or helicopters would be permitted to fire at fuel barrels, boats, trucks or other equipment stowed away on beaches.
The German mandate, which runs until May 31, 2013, limits such strikes to an area two kilometres (1.2 miles) in from the coastline and says German troops will only be permitted to go on land in cases of emergency. Read more.
The government is considering sending more Maltese soldiers to take part in an EU, anti-piracy mission off the Somali coast - Times of Malta.
Following a recent EU decision to extend Operation Atalanta by two years until the end of 2014, a government spokesman said that Malta would continue to take part in the mission, primarily through a fixed presence at the operation’s headquarters in the UK. It was also possible more troops would be deployed to take part directly in action in the troubled area.
“Malta intends to maintain a presence in the operation’s headquarters and is also considering the option of contributing further to this mission in the future with another vessel protection detachment (VPD),” the spokesman said.
Since the beginning of the operation at the end of 2008, Malta has constantly deployed an Armed Forces of Malta officer to the UK headquarters of the operation. The deployment lasts for six-month.
In 2010, a memorandum of understanding was signed with the Dutch Ministry of Defence that catered for a 12-person (two officers and 10 other ranks) Maltese VPD to serve on the Dutch naval vessel HNLMS Johan de Witt.
Malta last year extended its support by deploying a second VPD – also comprising 12 people – on board the Dutch naval vessel HNLMS Zuiderkruis.
In both cases, the detachment, together with the Dutch parent vessel, successfully protected World Food Programme and African Union-chartered shipping.
Image - (Maltese soldier practise to take on Somali pirates)
India and the EU will be working together to help tackle a problem that has dealt severe harm to international shipping - The Bangladesh Chronicle.
The worst affected areas lie off the coast of Somalia, Yemen, the Singapore Strait and Indonesia,” explains the EU’s new ambassador to India, Joao Cravinho.
In 2011, according to International Maritime Bureau figures, there were 439 verified attacks on merchant vessels worldwide, of which 237 involved Somali pirates. Twenty-eight of the 45 hijackings happened off the Somali coast.
Piracy has had a profound impact on the international shipping industry. Nagesh Rao, a senior Indian Shipping Ministry official, said shipping companies are being forced to take out war insurance to guard against the risk. Alarmed over the prospect of hijacking, their crews are demanding huge compensation.
Rao said shipping lines based in the EU, South Korea and Japan have been requesting help from India in securing their ships. To date no Indian merchant vessel has been attacked, but Indian seamen have been kidnapped and freed only after ransoms were paid by their EU employers.
According to Cravinho, the problem has made it increasingly harder for European shipping companies – already reeling from losses caused by the global economic downturn — to stay in the red. “The menace of piracy is causing deep distress because it is pushing up insurance costs by 1,000%,” he told Khabar South Asia.
Now Delhi and Brussels appear poised to tackle maritime piracy through co-ordinated action. At a high level EU-India summit in New Delhi on Friday (February 10th), India formalized its co-operation with Europe’s “Operation Atalanta”.
Under the accord, they will work together to fight piracy off the coast of Africa through co-ordinated patrolling and intelligence sharing. Read more.