10 December 2009 marks the first anniversary of EU NAVFOR Somalia - Operation Atalanta, the EU Naval Force operations in the Gulf of Aden and the Somali Basin against piracy. Hosted by Rear Admiral Peter Hudson CBE and co chaired by Didier Lenoir (CPMD Brussels) and Chris Trelawny (Head of Maritime Security Section IMO) it was a good opportunity to reflect on a successful first year of the operation.
The mission of Operation Atalanta has been three fold. Firstly, the mission provides close escort protection by EU Naval Force warships to World Food Programme shipments of food from Mombasa into Somalia. To date, EU Naval Force has provided protection to the shipment of over 300,000 tonnes of food, vital to a nation often hovering on the brink of starvation and none have been hijacked. Secondly, the mission is to deter and disrupt piracy and thirdly to protect vulnerable shipping.
The establishment of the International Recognised Transit Corridor in the Gulf of Aden has been a great achievement in the management and provision of protection to commercial shipping transiting these dangerous waters. Effective communication with the commercial shipping community has been established through the establishment of Maritime Security Centre, Horn of Africa (MSCHOA), a website system that allows EU Naval Force to provide Best Management Practice anti piracy advice to commercial shipping and information in the form of warnings and alerts of pirate threats. The establishment of a secure internet based communications system called Mercury also provides connectivity between EU NAVFOR, NATO and CMF as well as an impressive array of international states such as China, India, Japan and Russia.
Orchestrated by the EU and EU Naval Force, there have been many positive developments amongst, and between, regional nations directly affected by piracy. Positive steps and national recognition of responsibility to assist is evidenced through International agreements that allow regional prosecution of pirates from Kenya and Seychelles and other states are also showing interest in joining them. Sharing of information through the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction Conferences (SHADE), has been extremely successful and this cooperation is bringing together national navies not normally associated with the EU, NATO and CMF. This recognizes that this operation is being taken seriously across all nations and the international community is responding positively to the challenge.
This has been a period of success for EU Naval Force and Admiral Hudson, the Operational Commander of EU NAVFOR stated that “while piracy cannot be defeated at sea alone, much is being done in Europe to bring stability to Somalia. We have been very successful in capturing pirates and pirate activity has been severely disrupted”. Also Didier Lenoir CMPD from Brussels, summed up Op Atlanta during his talk to representatives at the Anniversary Day briefings when he said “Op Atlanta is not merely the ships that are provided, Op Atlanta is the core of a very successful mission.”