Danish frigate headed to Gulf of Guinea


The Danish frigate Esbern Snare has departed Denmark for the Gulf of Guinea, where it will patrol for pirates and ensure law and order is maintained at sea.

The Danish defence ministry said the vessel left Naval Base Frederikshavn for West Africa on 24 October with a contingent of military police, a helicopter and special operations forces.

The Danish frigate will contribute to the international fight against piracy in the area from the beginning of November for approximately six months.

The Gulf of Guinea is one of the most risky waters for civilian shipping, and piracy in the waters thus also poses a problem for Denmark, which is the world’s fifth-largest shipping nation, the Danish Defence Command said. On average, up to 40 Danish-operated ships sail in the Gulf of Guinea on a daily basis and they transport goods worth almost DKK10 billion ($1.56 billion) annually.

“We must deploy there to increase the security of the civilian ships in the area and intervene in the event of any pirate attacks,” said Commander Lars Povl Jensen, who is in charge of the frigate.

In addition to the frigate and its permanent crew, the navy assets also include a Seahawk helicopter, military police personnel, a detachment of naval special forces, and an expanded medical team. IN total, around 175 personnel are deployed.

The Danish Navy is no stranger to anti-piracy missions and previously took part in anti-piracy patrols off the Horn of Africa from 2008 to 2017.

“I expect that we will come down to a task that is very similar to the one we solved off the east coast of Africa. But we also expect that there will be differences. There will be a different navigational pattern, for example, where vessels do not sail along fixed routes, and there are littoral countries with coastguards that we can cooperate with but also have to accommodate,” Jensen explained.

He expects that the visible presence of the Esbern Snare in the area will be a deterrent for pirates. But the frigate will also try to actively locate pirates and it will intervene if possible if pirate attacks occur. With its helicopter, the Esbern Snare will have a wide operational range.

The Esbern Snare will be deployed in a purely Danish operation, but several other European countries often have naval vessels in the area. The United Kingdom has currently deployed the HMS Trent to the area, and the Italian Navy’s frigate Antonio Marceglia has been in the region since September. The Russian Navy destroyer Vice-Admiral Kulakov, meanwhile, fended off pirates from the MSC Lucia on 25 October while off the coasts of Togo and Cameroon, rescuing the crew aboard the merchant vessel.

Denmark said it will also support anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Guinea through contributions to capacity building in littoral states. Soldiers from the naval special forces will train their counterparts from the Ghana Special Boat Service, and Denmark will provide military advice to a maritime coordination centre in Ghana.