Pirates operating in waters off Somalia are becoming increasingly “crafty”, the commander of the EU’s naval mission there warns. He has also urged merchant vessels to co-operate more closely with a multinational flotilla operating in the Gulf of Aden and adjacent waters.
“The pirates are getting crafty, they are extending their horizon,” Rear Admiral Peter Hudson who heads the EU’s Operation Atalanta told members of the European parliament in Brussels. They are showing “a level of sophistication that we have not seen. We have to respond to that.”
“These are reckless individuals, they are not afraid of spending days and days at sea in an open skiff,” he said, noting that 10 ships and 244 people were currently in the hands of pirates.
“It is vital that the merchant community listen to our warnings and don’t attempt to cut corners,” he added according to a report by French news service AFP.
His warning comes a week after pirates launched two of their longest-range attacks yet, fully 1000 nautical miles (close to 2000km) from the Somali coast.
Lamenting what he qualified as “the tyranny of distance”, Hudson said it sometimes took up to two days for his vessels to reach the site of any attack in one of the world’s busiest shipping areas.
“Very few ships that have heeded our advice fully have been seized by pirates,” he said. We “need ships to register with us. We still have a big group that choose not to work with us, and we’re trying to address that.
“EU nations must highlight the nature of this register,” he added.
The world’s naval powers last year deployed warships in the Gulf of Aden in an attempt to curb attacks by ransom-hunting pirates that were seen as a threat to one of the globe’s most crucial maritime trade routes.
Pirates have since shifted their focus to the wider Indian Ocean, a huge area much more difficult to patrol, and have ventured as far as the Seychelles and beyond.
Meanwhile, Jane’s reports a General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) under the operational control of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) late last month flew its first sortie from the Seychelles.
The flight forms part of Operation ‘Ocean Look’, which provides support to US piracy deterrence efforts off the coast of Somalia. ‘Ocean Look’ has temporarily located the UAVs on the Seychelles since early October under a joint government agreement.