NATO to Resume Anti-Piracy Operations
NATO is planning to carry out more anti-piracy duties off the coast of Somalia in coming months, the military alliance’s chief spokesman said Feb. 19. “You can expect to see another NATO naval operation off the coast of Somalia in the spring,” spokesman James Appathurai told reporters in Krakow, where NATO defence ministers were holding informal talks.
Diplomats have said the anti-piracy work will involve vessels from one of NATO’s standing naval maritime groups as they make their way to Singapore and on to Australia, via the Gulf of Aden, on a series of port visits. Parts of that trip could be changed to allow a short anti-piracy mission. The defence ministers were set to “discuss the details.
Pirates attacked more than 130 merchant ships in the Gulf of Aden last year, more than double the 2007 total, according to the International Maritime Bureau, which tracks piracy and shipping security issues. More than 150 suspected pirates were arrested by naval patrols in the Gulf in 2008.
Heavily armed pirates operate high-powered speedboats and sometimes hold ships for weeks before releasing them for large ransoms paid by governments or ship owners.
In late October, NATO launched its first naval mission against pirates, patrolling the waters off lawless Somalia, with two other ships protecting UN food aid convoys to the strife-torn Horn of Africa country.