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NATO co-chairs counter-piracy conference

NATO hosts counter-piracy conferenceLast week saw Bahrain host the 39th Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) conference, a forum to discuss counter-piracy in the Gulf of Aden and in the Indian Ocean as well as the importance of co-operation between naval units in the region, industry and other concerned organisations.

NATO as a deployed operational partner, co-chaired for the final time, the biannual forum. The chairmanship is a rotating role among NATO, the European Union Naval Forces (EU NAVFOR) which runs EU Operation Atalanta and Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) which deploys Combined Task Force 151 (CTF151).

More than 100 delegates from 25 countries, representing the military task forces, independent deployers, international organisations, industry, think-tanks and NGOs participated in the conference. Presentations and speakers addressed current counter-piracy activities and other security challenges during the two day gathering.

Delegates engaged in different working groups and heard from the Commanders of the three international task forces: Vice Admiral Clive Johnstone CB CBE, Commander, NATO Allied Maritime Command; Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan, Commander, US Naval Forces Central Command, US 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces and Major General Rob Magowan CBE, Operation Commander, EU Naval Force.

Lydia Wanyoto, Deputy Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, spoke on the AMISOM mission and the challenges ahead. Retired colonel John Steed MBE, representing the independent think-tank “Ocean Beyond Piracy”, presented on the UNODC’s sponsored Hostage Support Partnership (HSP) programme, designed to provide crucial support to hostages in captivity and to secure a safe release and repatriation of these victims of Somali piracy.

Mustafa Aydin, UN World Food Programme (WFP) shipping officer, provided an update on WFP issues of concern in the Indian Ocean including the large-scale displacement affecting millions of persons in Somalia and Yemen. He was followed by Dr Phillip Belcher, Marine Director INTERTANKO, who gave a presentation on the industry and its counter-piracy concerns. The presentations were followed by debate stimulating further engagement.

“I would like to thank to General Magowan and Admiral Donegan as well as navies represented for the close co-operation and co-ordination NATO has enjoyed since 2008. Thanks also to the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) and NGOs in the forefront of thinking and research on how to tackle the crisis.” Vice Admiral Clive Johnstone, Commander, Allied Maritime Command, said.

“Operation Ocean Shield must be considered a success. Co-ordinated efforts with EU NAVFOR, CMF and independent deployers, the adherence to Best Management Practices (BMP) by most of the shipping industry, the adoption of private security teams on board merchant vessels and capacity building with empowerment and governance strengthening in Somalia, have all contributed to this achievement”.

“Energising activities such as co-ordination, co-operation and information sharing were enabled through the format of this forum, revealing the event as important and making it a reference for similar operational activities,” Captain Tufan Uslu, Assistant Chief of Operations at Allied Maritime Command, said.

“Operation Ocean Shield was honoured to have Australia, Colombia, New Zealand and Ukraine units join the mission”, he added.

NATO, at the request of the United Nations, launched counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, off the Horn of Africa and in the Indian Ocean in October 2008. The mission was to deter and disrupt Somalia piracy attacks, while protecting vessels and helping to increase the general level of maritime security in the region.

The last successful hijacking occurred in May 2012 and until then Ocean Shield had conducted 116 interdictions involving 672 suspected pirates. However, the roots of piracy were not eradicated and the latest incidents are a fresh reminder to the international community.

NATO ceases Operation Ocean Shield in the context of major security challenges in the Mediterranean and in other waterspaces in its primary area of responsibility (AOR) at year-end but will remain engaged in the fight against piracy by maintaining maritime situational awareness and keeping the ability, flexibility and readiness to deploy should the situation determine. NATO Shipping Centre will continue engaging with stakeholders.