After busy months on patrol in the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin, a task force of NATO warships on March 12 handed over their counter-piracy mission, (Operation Ocean Shield) to the new task force of NATO ships which had sailed to the area to take up the mission. NATO warships have been conducting counter piracy patrols off the Horn of Africa, an area of strategic importance, since October 2008. On March 12 it was the turn of the five warships from the Standing NATO Maritime Group Two, who currently come from the UK (flagship), Greece, Italy, Turkey and the U.S. to pick up the baton of this ongoing mission.
Speaking about the handover between the two NATO groups, which took place at Djibouti, NATO’s maritime commander, Admiral Sir Trevor Soar commented “The continuing presence of warships from the Standing NATO Maritime Groups, together with warships from the EU Naval Force, Combined Maritime Force and other nations such as Russia, China and India is essential if we are to combat the scourge of piracy. Piracy has the potential to affect us all given that 95% of the world’s trade goes by sea. As we have clearly demonstrated NATO is making a real impact in deterring and disrupting piracy”.
Speaking from his flagship Absalon, the commander of NATO’s Maritime Group One, Commodore Rune (Royal Danish Navy) said “The last few months have been extremely busy for the NATO task force. We have, together with our maritime partners, actively disrupted and prevented attacks by armed pirate gangs on innocent vessels, who carry the goods and food into our countries. Whilst I am proud of what we have achieved, NATO remains ever vigilant.”
Embarked in HMS Chatham, the commander of NATO’s Maritime Group Two is Commodore Steve Chick (Royal Navy). Last week, the NATO nations decided to extend Operation Ocean Shield until the end of 2012.