Patrols reduce piracy, battle far from over – UK navy


Efforts to combat piracy off the Somali coast have reduced the number of successful attacks on merchant ships, though the battle is far from over, said a senior British navy officer.

Somali pirates are making millions of dollars in ransoms from seizing ships in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden, despite efforts of foreign navies to clamp down on such attacks.
“We are not fighting a losing battle. There has not been a successful piracy attack on merchant vessels since the end of April,” Commodore Tim Fraser, a regional maritime commander, told journalists aboard the amphibious assault ship Albion, Reuters reports.
“There has been no successful piracy event in the Gulf of Aden since September last year. Although I would not wish to give an indication that this is sorted out, because it is not,” he told a news conference.

Docked in Abu Dhabi’s Mina Zayed port, Albion together with the frigate Sutherland and other ships will take part in a joint exercise with the United Arab Emirates’ navy in the coming days.

Both ships are part of the Royal Navy’s maritime quick reaction force, which supported NATO operations off war-torn Libya.

As of Tuesday, 394 people were being held hostage by pirates together with 17 large vessels, Fraser said. The numbers do not include smaller ships and fishing boats.
“The piracy is still there, there is too much of it. But that number has been reduced so the military effort is having some effect,” Fraser said.

More than 3,500 seafarers had been kidnapped over the past four years and held hostage by pirate gangs, who have used them as human shields and forced crew members to operate vessels as mother ships, campaigners said this month.

Fraser said Britain has no plans to change its involvement in anti-piracy patrols.
“Any British ships that are transiting through the region are contributing to anti-piracy efforts. And that plan will continue to run as long as the effort is required,” he said.
“There are no plans to change that.”

Overstretched international navies have struggled to contain the raids in the Indian Ocean due to the vast distances.

Islamist insurgency and lawlessness has created a pirate safe haven in Somalia. The shipping industry fears that Somali pirates, who have been operating along the Yemeni coast, may exploit a political turmoil in the Arab world’s poorest country.

Maritime piracy costs the global economy $12 billion (7 billion pounds) a year according to researchers.