European Union foreign ministers are expected to extend the bloc’s anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia for another year next week amid concerns the numbers of pirates are rising.
In place since December 2008, the EU’s ‘Atalanta’ mission is tasked with protecting vessels delivering food aid to Somalia and other ships passing through vital commercial shipping lanes through the Gulf of Aden and near the Somali coast.
Rear Admiral Peter Hudson, commander of the European Union Naval Force Somalia, said he expected a new extension of its mandate which expires in December to be cleared at Monday’s regular meeting of EU ministers.
“Over the last two years, there has been real growth in the area the pirates are operating in, as they become more adventurous, more fearless and more determined to strike merchant ships in the Indian Ocean,” he told a news conference.
Naval forces disrupted 59 pirate groupings in the Somali basin between March and May, one of the two main piracy seasons of the year, up sharply from last year. Over 350 sailors and 17 ships are held by pirates now, pending the conclusion of ransom negotiations.