Sunday, November 30, 2014

EU Votes to Keep Occupying Somalian Waters
The EU Naval Force will continue occupying Somalia waters.
European council extends counter-piracy patrols for two years to secure humanitarian aid shipments to Somalia from the UN’s World Food Programme

Mark Anderson
Wednesday 26 November 2014 10.31 EST

Counter-piracy naval patrols to protect shipments of humanitarian aid for Somalia will continue for two years amid severe hunger in the Horn of Africa.

The European council voted last week to extend the EU naval force’s Operation Atalanta until December 2016, saying its main focus is to protect shipments from the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) that pass through pirate waters on the way to Somalia.

Somali pirates are known to operate in the Gulf of Aden and the western Indian Ocean. In 2011, incidents of piracy off Somalia’s coast reached an all-time high, with 176 attacks, according to the EU. But attacks dwindled to seven in 2013 and only two so far this year, although many incidents involving smaller pirate boats go unreported, EU data showed.

Despite the sharp decline in attacks, pirates still pose a threat to humanitarian shipments, said Federica Mogherini, EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy. “Operation Atalanta has considerably helped in reducing piracy off the Somali coast. We must maintain the pressure on pirates to help ensure security in the Horn of Africa. This is in our mutual interest,” said Mogherini.

More than 1 million Somalis need emergency food aid, marking a 20% rise since January, according to the WFP. Over 2 million more are “struggling to meet their minimum food requirements”, and risk “falling in a food security and nutrition crisis if humanitarian assistance is not sustained”, the WFP said.

The bulk of these supplies are shipped through the Gulf of Aden. The counter-piracy force has shielded more than 924,000 tonnes of food aid since it began in 2008, according to the WFP.

“Without escorts, our whole maritime supply route would be under threat and the lives of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Somalis who depend on WFP would be at risk. Ship owners and contractors have reported that the presence of escort vessels in Somali waters has discouraged attacks,” said a WFP spokeswoman.

The EU naval force Somalia (Navfor) was launched in response to piracy off the country’s coast. Renewing the force for two more years will cost €14.7m (£11.7m), according to EU estimates.

“One of Navfor’s early contributions was to patrol and escort convoys along the international recognised transit corridor, which more or less eliminated piracy in the Gulf of Aden,” said Jay Bahadur, journalist and author of The Pirates of Somalia. “The last known hijacking of a humanitarian shipment into Somalia was the MV Rozen in February 2007; by late 2007 the French navy began escorting WFP ships into port, a role that Navfor subsequently took over.”

French sailors work on the bridge as a gunner is reflected in a window onboard the EU NAVFOR (European Union Naval Force) French flagship FS Siroco off the coast of the port city Bosaso, in Somalia's semi-autonomous state Puntland, in the Gulf of Aden, 27 March 2014.

 French sailors work on board the EU Navfor French flagship FS Siroco off the coast of Somalia, with a gunner reflected in the glass. Photograph: Dai Kurokawa/EPA
In 2011 a famine threatening nearly 4 million people was declared in Somalia. Since then, the WFP has been providing food aid to the country. But a funding shortfall could limit humanitarian shipments from next month.

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