(NATO INT’L)—Defense ministers within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization made a decision Tuesday to extend counter-piracy mission Ocean Shield to the tail-end of 2016.
The best offense is a good defense. Operation Ocean Shield, first initiated in August 2009 off the coastline of the Horn of Africa is an effective contribution to the international efforts of combating maritime piracy, fortifying regional navies and their capacity to defend. Working in close proximity to naval forces policing the Indian Ocean, with both U.S. and the EU, Ocean Shield has made a significant impact in quashing of pirate activity within the surrounding area.
In spite of all NATO has done to quell their advances piracy is still very much alive–but not without great success. In 2011 pirates captured 24 ships, with a recorded 129 attacks off Somali beaches; not more than a year later the number had dropped to an estimated 20, with no reports of commandeered vessels or Somali-held merchant ships.
NATO assessments indicate that within the Somalia-rooted hotbed for pirate activity that the hijackers still possess the intent and capacity to attack ships, met only by NATO’s defensive architecture onboard their ships and their ability to detect attempts said seizings.
Ocean Shield is responsible for the protection of the world’s most bustling waterways and shipping lanes, about half of an estimated 90 percent of all global sea trade that passes through the Indian Ocean. According to World Bank 2013 estimates piracy’s cost to the international economy is about $18 billion yearly. Counter-piracy efforts by NATO and assisting organizations aim to cut that cost down to size.
The NATO armada, partially composed of Spanish, Italian and Turkish ships operating within a 2 million nautical mile radius, roughly the size of Western Europe, spread liberally from the Arabian Gulf to the Seychelles, from the Gulf of Aden to the Maldives in the east.
Suspected pirate vessels are weeded out by a bevy of NATO vessels, separating the wheat from the chaff, the legitimate maritime commercial ships from those believed to be suspect attackers. NATO boarding teams can then board a suspicious ship to assess the severity of the situation, using force if necessary to detain pirates and prevent further action.
NATO is right to be cautious.
“NATO ships [will] continue to detect attempts by pirates to capture vessels, but the root causes still remain in Somalia.”