zaterdag 21 juli 2012

Omani support for anti-piracy operations hailed

By Conrad Prabhu

MUSCAT — Last month’s successful operation by Omani naval forces to liberate an Omani-flagged fishing dhow has been hailed by a high-ranking Dutch official as a classic example of how countries in the region can help support international anti-piracy efforts. Commodore Ben Bekkering of the Royal Netherlands Navy praised the “very successful co-operation” extended by the Sultanate in combating pirate attacks on least two occasions during the past month.

He cited in particular the June 30 incident in which Omani authorities agreed to prosecute seven suspected pirates arrested during the liberation of the Omani dhow, Al Boom. “That incident of three weeks ago has been proven to be a textbook operation from start to finish,” Commodore Bekkering said. “We see a forward-leaning proactive approach by the Omani (authorities) in fighting piracy. We all realise that if the pirates are successful, then maritime transport will be more difficult and our economies will suffer.

HNLMS Evertsen
Photo: Oman Observer
"I think Oman, with its main ports like Salalah playing a pivotal role in transport, it is important that safety and security of maritime transportation is ensured. Therefore, I understand and appreciate very much the professional stance of the Omani navy,” he stated in comments to journalists on the bridge of the Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen, which is currently visiting Oman. As commander of Nato’s counter-piracy mission codenamed ‘Operation Ocean Shield’, Commodore Bekkering oversees a naval task force that includes the HNLMS Evertsen.

The frigate, which had also played a key role in the liberation of the Al Boom, arrived at Port Sultan Qaboos yesterday at the start of a four-day stopover for ‘rest and recreation’, as well as to take on fresh supplies. Detailing the “textbook” nature of the co-operation extended by Oman in the June 30 liberation of Al Boom, he said a swift response was possible due to crucial information provided by Oman’s maritime operations centre about the dhow.

“Based on bits of information that we were able to piece together, the Evertsen intercepted the dhow and liberated the crew of seven, and also seized seven suspected pirates on board. One of suspected pirates had died in an attack they had staged a couple of days before, so we had to give him a burial at sea in the proper tradition. "The Dutch government then negotiated with the Omani government on the prosecution of the suspected pirates. Within 2-3 days there was an agreement that since the dhow had been hijacked and since it was an Omani owned, the Sultanate decided to handle the prosecution.

"For us, it was not only great news to have liberated a dhow, but to also hand over the suspected pirates to a judge to decide (on their fate). This was the most perfect conclusion of a pirate incident. There have been occasions in the past where we had got hold of pirates but had to send them back to shore because there was no nation to accept them for prosecution,” Commodore Bekkering said.

More recently, an Omani naval vessel had also come to the rescue of another hijacked dhow that had been abandoned after it ran out of fuel. The vessel and its crew are now making their way through choppy waters en route to Salalah with assistance provided by Omani naval forces, he said.

(Oman Observer, 22 July 2012)

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