zondag 16 september 2012

NATO counter-piracy task force engages coastal villages

Piracy is being pushed back. Naval presence and measures to prepare and defend merchant ships against attacks seem to pay off. Pirates need to disperse their activities ashore and disguise their operations at sea, for fear of being detected and disrupted prematurely. But we are not there yet. We must continue to seek ways to apply even more pressure on the pirate’s syndicates, turning profits into losses. One of the ways to do that is to make it increasingly difficult for pirates to prepare for their activities and depart to sea.

Coastal village
Ashore is where the pirates find their supplies and attackskiffs with strong outboard engines. Ashore is where the pirates affect community life and prevent development. Close ashore is where the pirates find the dhows they use as mothership. And close ashore is where they hold their hijacked vessels for huge ransoms. To seek more knowledge of and interaction with the coast seems therefore a logical progression of the counter piracy effort.

TF 508 has sought ways to engage with the coastal villages. Starting with visits to fishing skiffs and trading dhows, meetings with elders quickly followed. Those village elders explained us about the shore side view on piracy. About the fact that piracy has made things difficult. The basic needs the villages have. The lack of aid and assistance, the lack of basic healthcare. They also explained the lack of knowledge of the tasks and missions of the warships in front of their coast. Were they there to help, or to prevent illegal fishing, as the original pirates would always claim?

Somali fishermen

In further increasing the pressure on the pirates, the villages and their leaders can become valuable allies. By conducting regular visits, meeting the elders and providing small scale medical assistance, we gain trust, we exchange information and we reassure the people that together we must counter piracy. Now we have to see if we can make this an effective counter piracy measure, by preventing pirates to go to sea and when they do, to catch them well before they can become a danger. To safeguard international shipping, but also ensure safe regional and local trade and fishing. Not just today or tomorrow, but also for the longer term.

Commodore Ben Bekkering,
Commander, NATO Task Force 508
Operation Ocean Shield

(Defensie weblog, 16 september 2012)

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