Tuesday, September 29, 2009

US Navy: Pirate Attacks on the Rise Off Somalia

Dispatches from the Front
News from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet Combined Maritime Forces.

Dispatches from the Front:

MANAMA, Bahrain, Sept. 29, 2009 -- Pirate activity has increased recently off the coast of Somalia with four attempted attacks occurring on motor vessels in the Gulf of Aden since Sept. 19. Three separate unsuccessful attacks occurred Sept. 19 and 20, while the most recent attack occurred Sept. 26 on the Panamanian-flagged Motor Vessel Handy V, in which seven pirates were arrested by the Turkish ship TCG Gediz (F-495), assigned to NATO’s Piracy Task Force. This brings the total number of piracy attacks on merchant vessels in 2009 to 146, 28 of which have been successful.

In order to coordinate, deconflict, and maximize the effectiveness of naval forces conducting counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, naval leaders from 30 nations and international organizations met today for a series of meetings held in Bahrain.

The SHared Awareness and DEconfliction (SHADE) meetings provide a working-level opportunity for navies to come together to share information and deconflict counter-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia. “By synchronizing and deconflicting our efforts, Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, EU, NATO and other international forces are making a difference,” said Commodore Tim Lowe, Deputy Commander, Combined Maritime Forces.

Last week, CMF warned mariners of an increase in piracy off Africa's coast as the monsoon season has ended and expectations are that pirate activity will again increase as they target passing ships. “CTF (Combined Task Force) 151 is ready to counter these attacks and support vessels in need,” said Rear Adm. Scott E. Sanders, Commander, CTF 151. “We're not being passive out here; we're being proactive. We are creating an environment in which pirates are not so bold.”

CMF continues to operate off the coast of Somalia to enhance the security of commercial maritime routes. “We make every attempt to intercept the skiffs with pirate paraphernalia before they can attack a merchant ship,” said Sanders. Multinational forces are on patrol and prepared to defend commercial and fishing vessels and keep the area safe for trade and passage. According to Sanders, the maritime strategy is at work each and every day off the coast of Somalia and Coalition naval forces are ready to respond to any surge in piracy. Since August 2008, CTF 151 and other cooperating naval forces have disarmed and released 343 pirates, 212 others have been turned over for prosecution, and 11 were killed.

The presence of Coalition naval vessels in the region demonstrates a commitment to regional security and stability. CTF 151 continues to improve its working relationship with all the naval forces in the region by coordinating efforts and streamlining communication to strengthen counter piracy efforts. These efforts are being complemented by proactive measures that the merchant community is taking. CMF, commercial shippers, regional governments, and the international community are coming together to deter piracy.

CTF 151 is a multinational task force established in January 2009 by the CMF headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, to conduct counter piracy operations under a mission-based mandate to actively deter, disrupt and suppress piracy in order to protect global maritime security, and secure freedom of navigation for the benefit of all nations.

(Report by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brianna K. Dandridge.)

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