The British House of Lords EU Committee has published its report into Somali piracy. The report examines the effectiveness of EU Operation Atalanta, which was set up to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.. The report states until the root causes of conflict in Somalia are addressed, piracy will continue to flourish and that the pirates are operating further out in the Indian Ocean. It also concludes that piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean is a serious and continuing threat to UK and EU interests.
Image credit: Alex Cove/AP Photos/Royal Navy
- Report: Combating Somali Piracy: the EU’s naval Operation Atalanta
- House of Lords EU Committee Sub-Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Development Policy
With this in mind the report makes recommendations regarding:
- the duration of Operation Atalanta
- the World Food Program and the vessels being used by the program
- contributions from the Insurance and Shipping industries to the combating of pirates in the region
Methods used by pirates in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean remain basic. The success of Operation Atalanta and other efforts means that pirates have been forced to operate further offshore in the Indian Ocean, increasing the risk of detection for pirates as they have to use larger vessels.
The pirates were largely based around three clans, which tended to have their own "pirate companies". They left from numerous pirate ports, including coves and harbors along the 3,000 km-long coast. They brought seized ships back to a central location, where they maintained the security of the ships and conducted ransom negotiations
A significant number of Somali pirates are organized in clan-based sophisticated criminal networks. However the method of attack has remained basic. Ironically, it is a measure of the success of Atalanta and other international forces in the Gulf of Aden that pirates have been forced to operate further offshore in the Indian Ocean. This increases the risk-to-reward ratio for the pirates as they have to use mother ships which are more easily identified by surveillance. The EU's efforts to combat piracy must continue to be robust so as to increase this risk-to-reward ratio. Given the displacement of piracy further into the Indian Ocean, it is all the more important that Atalanta has the right capabilities, especially airborne surveillance.
Given this displacement of piracy further into the Indian Ocean, it is all the more important that Atalanta has the right capabilities.
The report identifies capability shortfalls which prevent improvements to the effectiveness of Atalanta, including airborne surveillance medical facilities and tanker support for re-fuelling.
According to the report is clear that without addressing the root causes of the conflict in Somalia, piracy will continue to flourish. The EU is rightly taking a comprehensive approach, seeking to address political, economic and security aspects of the crisis in a holistic way. However, the causes of fighting and insecurity in Somalia are deep-rooted and complex. Progress on peace and security will largely depend on the Somalis themselves, including the actions of the fledgling Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
The report supports the status quo whereby the payment of ransom to pirates is not a criminal offence under United Kingdom law. The report recommends that the Government continue to monitor the potential risks of monies reaching terrorists.
The report also states that skilled ransom negotiators can help to keep risk to life and vessels, as well as ransom payments, to a minimum. Where ship owners intend to pay a ransom to recover their vessel and crew, and recommends that they use experienced and effective ransom negotiators. Where insurance policies do not already insist on experienced negotiators, they should do so.