From the middle of next month, approximately ten underwater demolition troops from South Korea will supplement the 130 special forces stationed in Abu Dhabi to provide counterterrorism training aimed at combating piracy.
Colonel Romano Lee, the defence attaché at the South Korean embassy in Abu Dhabi, told The National that the UAE has invited specialist naval forces from South Korea to provide counter-piracy training as part of efforts to boost its defences against the growing high-seas threat.
Piracy is a particularly serious problem in the waters in the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea as vast amounts of oil are shipped through these pirate infested waters.
South Korea has successfully dealt with hijacked ships – when South Korean forces successfully freed a ship from Somali pirates in January it left an impression on the UAE, a South Korean defence official told the South Korean Yonhap news agency.
In January, South Korean navy commandos rescued the South Korean cargo ship Samho Jewellery, which had been hijacked in the Arabian Sea en route from the UAE to Sri Lanka.
All 21 Samho Jewellery crew members survived, including the captain, though he suffered a serious gunshot wound. Eight pirates were killed, while five were captured and now face trial in South Korea.
The announcement of the arrival of the 10 Korean troops’ arrival comes just days after Abu Dhabi received a Turkish naval delegation to do exercises related to counter-piracy, The National reports.
South Korea and Turkey participate in a multinational counter-piracy group called the Combined Task Force 151, which patrols the Gulf of Aden.
The UAE and South Korea have been strengthening relations of late. In 2009 a South Korean-led group was contracted to build four nuclear reactors in the UAE and in March, South Korea signed a memorandum of understanding to allow the Asian country to develop oilfields.
The UAE has been the target of several attacks by Somali pirates, who in the past year have spread their reach from the Gulf of Aden to the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. Pirates hold four ships that are either owned by Emirati firms or were travelling to or from the UAE, including the MV Iceberg I, which has been held for 15 months.
The UAE faced its own pirate rescue incident in April, when a bulk carrier owned by the UAE-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company was seized by pirates in the Arabian Sea while returning from Australia.
Within 24 hours, Emirati special forces with US support had boarded the ship and reclaimed the vessel with no casualties.
Somali pirates have been preying on ships sailing in the waters off the lawless horn of Africa country and in the Gulf of Aden, raking in millions of dollars and driving up shipping costs. Maritime piracy costs the global economy US$12 billion a year according to researchers.
As of June 13 pirate have hijacked 26 vessels out of 243 attempts this year. Somali pirates have been responsible for 21 of those successful hijackings and are currently holding 23 vessels and 439 hostages, according to the International Maritime Bureau.