First EU NavFor drug bust


A recent regular European Union Naval Force (EU NavFor) anti-piracy patrol turned into a successful drug bust – the first in the history of Operation Atalanta.

With piracy at an all-time low in the Indian Ocean off Somalia and the Horn of Africa, the European Union (EU) mission Atalanta, originally charged with protecting World Food Programme (WFP) vessels from pirates, had narcotics interdiction added to its responsibilities in February.

“During a regular EU NavFor anti-piracy patrol protecting vessels transiting off the Horn of Africa and the western Indian Ocean, French Navy vessels LHD Mistral (L0913) and the frigate Courbet (F712), serving with Atalanta, seized four tons of cannabis and 90 kg of heroin on a stateless dhow,” an EU NavFor statement said.

This was the first execution since action against drug trafficking was taken on as an additional core tasking for the now 14-year-old mission.

The drug bust and all other Atalanta successes are down to collaboration, quality of strategic partner support and nations contributing assets and personnel for deployment.

The operation’s achievement record, in part, reads 1 834 WFP vessels protected, 171 pirates “transferred to appropriate authorities” and over 2.4 million tons of food and aid delivered.

In March, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) allowed a resolution for the fight against piracy and armed robbery at sea in Somalia’s territorial waters lapse. The Somali government opposed extension of the resolution allowing foreign navies to enter Somali territorial waters to repress piracy.

The EU Operation Atalanta, which began operations in 2008, will continue to operate in the region. In a statement on 9 March, EU Navfor said Atalanta will continue to fulfil missions in its broader area of responsibility, providing maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean.

“Operation Atalanta remains committed to respect the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and will continue countering piracy on the high seas, protecting World Food Programme (WFP) and other vulnerable vessels, countering drug trafficking, contributing to implementation of the weapons’ embargo on Somalia and monitoring illicit activities at sea, such as illegal export of charcoal and illegal, unreported and unregistered (IUU) fishing,” EU NavFor said.

After 14 years, Alatanta still fosters high levels of co-ordination, de-confliction and is complementary with other operations and missions in the region, such as the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), the European Maritime Awareness in the Strait of Hormuz (EMASOH) and Atalanta’s EU sister missions EUCAP Somalia and EUTM Somalia.

Over the last decade the global piracy epicentre shifted to the Gulf of Guinea with experts warning Somali piracy could surge again if international navies stopped patrols in the region.