Eleven pirates have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 18 months to 16 years in the Seychelles Supreme Court.
The sentences were handed down on Wednesday in connection with acts of piracy and operating a pirate vessel between May 7 and 12 last year.
The pirates were apprehended by the Royal Netherlands Navy frigate HNLMS Van Amstel last May after the vessel’s Lynx helicopter sighted a suspicious fishing dhow towing two skiffs 400 nautical miles off the Somali coast.
“When the warship’s boarding team approached the dhow the Dutch Navy crew found 11 suspected pirates of Somali origin and 17 hostages on board,” the EUNavFor (EU Naval Force, Somalia) said in a statement.
“After taking the suspected pirates to HNLMS Van Amstel the Dutch boarding team found significant evidence linking the 11 men to an armed attack on Motor Tanker Super Lady a few days earlier.
“The 17 freed hostages, all Iranian fishermen, were very grateful to the Dutch sailors for rescuing them from the armed pirates.”
The Royal Netherlands Navy has contributed warships to EUNavFor since the EU counter piracy operation began in December 2008. The current force flagship is HNLMS Johan de Witt, with Commodore Peter Lenselink embarked as force commander.
EUNavFor’s mandate includes protection of World Food Programme (WFP) vessels delivering aid to displaced people in Somalia and protection of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) shipping; the deterrence, prevention and repression of acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the Somali coast; protection of vulnerable shipping in the same area on a case by case basis as well as monitoring fishing activities.
Warships also conduct patrols in the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
All these tasks are executed as part of Operation Atalanta.
EUNavFor’s area of operation covers the Southern Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and a large part of the Indian Ocean, including the Seychelles. The area of operation also includes the Somali coastal territory as well as its territorial and internal waters. This is an area of two million square nautical miles (about 3,7 million square kilometres – roughly one and a half times the size of mainland Europe).
In its five year existence to date Operation Atalanta has had a 100% success rate in providing protection to WFP vessels and has transferred a number of suspected pirates to authorities with a view to prosecution and conviction through close co-operation with regional governments including Kenya and the Seychelles.
EUNavFor vessels also conduct and support numerous safety of life at sea (SOLAS) rescue missions helping local, regional and international trading and fishing vessels in distress.