Turning The Tide On Piracy
The Parliamentary Yearbook is currently gathering news items for major features in
the next edition covering international measures to protect the world’s sea lanes
against piracy and has been following closely the success of Operation Atalanta
In a report published earlier this month The House of Lords EU Committee for External
Affairs has praised the success of Operation Atalanta in curbing piracy off the Somali coast.
However, they say that the operation must be extended beyond its current end date of
December 2014 if it is to make a lasting difference in combating the threat.
European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Operation Atalanta was launched by the
European Union on 8 December 2008 and is conducted in accordance with United Nations
Security Council’s resolutions. The Operation has been extended by the European Council
until December 2014 and has the following objectives:
Protect vessels of the World Food Programme, Humanitarian aid and African Union
Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) shipping
Help deter, prevent and repress acts of piracy and armed robbery.
Protect vulnerable shipping
Monitor fishing activities off the coast of Somalia
Operation Atalanta’s participation goes beyond EU Member States. Norway was the first
non-EU country to contribute to the Operation with one warship, in 2009. Furthermore,
Croatia and Ukraine have provided staff officers to the Operational Headquarters (OHQ).
Additionally, offers by Montenegro and Serbia to contribute have been accepted and a
Participation Agreement has been concluded to this effect, allowing the contribution of naval
Also a considerable international military naval presence is now in the area, comprising the
Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), NATO and also units from China, India, Japan, Russia,
Taiwan and others – all committed to Counter Piracy but to some extend with varying
mandates and mission objectives. EU NAVFOR ATALANTA has permanent liaison with
these forces to deconflict their operations in time and space in the mission area.
The funding of EU NAVFOR ATALANTA amounted to €8.4 million for 2010 and €8.05 million
for 2011. A budget of €14.9 million is provided for the common costs of the prolonged
mandate until December 2014.
The Committee say in their report that Operation Atalanta has made clear progress in
reducing the number of ships pirated, with only 8 vessels and 215 hostages held in June
2012 compared to 23 vessels and 501 hostages in the same month in 2011.
Nonetheless the report makes clear that it is vital this effort is extended beyond 2014 to
show the EU will not walk away from confronting piracy in the Indian Ocean. Otherwise
organisations and individuals that organise piracy will simply wait out the operation before
returning to their previous activities.
The report welcomes the increase in trials and imprisonment of pirates and particularly
praises the role played by the Seychelles. However, the Committee do express concerns
about the policy of transferring sentenced pirates back to Somalia for imprisonment and
suggest there is a risk of breakouts. They call on the EU and UN to work together to monitor
pirate prisons. They also say efforts should be made to ensure the imprisonment includes
some efforts at rehabilitation as well as punishment, particularly for young pirates.
The findings in the report include:
Somali piracy will never be completely eradicated until the root causes of the problems in
the country are addressed. The Committee welcome EU efforts to increase aid to the
country and say that aid should be focused on providing alternative livelihoods for the
Somali people to reduce the incentives to engage in piracy
The Committee have changed their view on the use of armed guards on ships since their
original report on piracy and now support the initiative as the evidence showed that no
ship with an armed guard has been pirated and the use of guards has not escalated
The report welcomes the high degree of international cooperation in tackling Somali
piracy with national navies of Russia, China and India all playing a role. This should act
as a model for military cooperation in other theatres including EU-NATO relations
The role of China in particular is welcome and evidence of its increasing cooperation with
the international community
Commenting Lord Teverson, Chairman of the Lords EU Committee for External Affairs, said:
"Operation Atalanta has clearly made real progress in reducing the threat of Somali piracy.
However if the situation is to continue to improve it is important the pirates know the
international commitment to stop their activities is real and ongoing. To ensure this,
Operation Atalanta should now have its remit extended beyond 2014.
“As we identified in our previous report reducing piracy requires reducing the incentive for
Somalis to become pirates. As well as increasing the risk involved by improving detection
and punishment of those engaged in piracy we also need viable alternatives for Somalis to
provide for their families.
“Again the EU is making progress but it is important that aid is now focused on providing
alternative forms of livelihood so people don’t resort to piracy."
The Parliamentary Year book will continue to report on the progress of this and other anti-
piracy measures as we go through the months ahead.
31st August 2012