Busy April for NATO counter piracy task force


NATO’s counter-piracy task force (CTF-508) supporting Operation Ocean Shield wrapped up a busy second half of April with regional engagement opportunities throughout its area of operations.

Earlier in the month, two members of the Yemeni military were embarked for a week aboard HNLMS Evertsen to familiarise them with NATO counter piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. The embarkation of the officers from the Yemeni Coast Guard and Navy is a product of NATO’s effort to foster co-operation with neighbouring countries to enable them to provide security for the Gulf of Aden. During their time aboard, the Yemeni officers observed Evertsen’s visits to dhows and skiffs to increase maritime situational awareness and more effectively combat piracy. They also observed live-firing exercises. The Yemeni officers also gave CTF-508 insight into the situation in Yemen and the problems faced by the Yemeni defence forces.

HNLMS Evertsen also conducted an exercise with the Dutch merchant vessel MV Happy Dragon in the Gulf of Aden. During the exercise, Evertsen’s Enhanced Boarding Element (EBE) practiced boarding and liberating the vessel while Happy Dragon’s crew hid in a safe room. The EBE, a special operations unit of the Royal Dutch Marines, boarded the merchant vessel and simulated overpowering suspected pirates and liberating the crew.

CTF-508 flagship ESPS Cristobal Colon spent April 23 conducting training on counter piracy operations for an instructor and 16 students of the Seychelles Coast Guard. The students are conducting a maritime security and safety course supervised by the European Union’s capacity-building program EUCAP Nestor, whose liaison officers stationed in Seychelles co-ordinated the training. The students received a series of lectures on counter piracy operations in the Indian Ocean and on boarding team procedures using helicopters and boats, followed by a brief tour of the ship and a practical demonstration of boarding security team equipment.

The last week of April saw the staff of CTF-508 visit to the Regional Fusion Law Enforcement Centre for Safety and Security at Sea (REFLECS3) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) during a port visit to the Seychelles by the flagship.

These visits help staff to become familiar with the activities and capacities of these organisations and how they interact with NATO’s counter piracy operations in the Indian Ocean. The meetings produced constructive ideas to further enhance and improve co-operation in countering illegal activities at sea. REFLECS3 monitors regional traffic in order to detect suspicious activity and inform relevant local authorities. UNODC is a direct sponsor of REFLECS3 and supports the Seychelles government in bringing suspected pirates to justice and training local Seychelles law enforcement in evidence procedures and conducting judicial trials.