No Change in Approach

The past week has seen an increased use of force to deal with pirates. Successful raids by Malaysian and South Korean navies have led to the rescue of two ships and crew members, and the capture of a number of pirates.

The operations gave both Malaysia and South Korea dramatic successes. The Royal Malaysian navy said its commandos wounded three pirates in a gunbattle and rescued the 23 crew members on the Malaysian-flagged chemical tanker MT Bunga Laurel, shortly after the pirates stormed the vessel in the Gulf of Aden with assault rifles and pistols.

While a similarly audacious and stunning raid by South Korean commandos freed the long time held vessel, “Samho Jewelry”.

So is force the answer? Well according to EUNAVFOR it seems perhaps not. There are concerns that such “gung ho” actions could further endanger hostages.

EU Naval Force spokesman Wing Cmdr. Paddy O’Kennedy said despite these successes, the force will not change its approach to tackling piracy.

“Our priority is the safety of the hostages. The pirates are using the hostages as human shields, and if we get too close to the pirates, they threaten to kill the hostages. … I am sure they will carry out the threats if we got too close,” O’Kennedy said.

The force has four ships patrolling the pirate-infested waters of the Indian Ocean. The EU’s force for Somalia, also called Operation ATALANTA, escorts merchant vessels carrying humanitarian aid. The force said it also “protects vulnerable ships in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean,” in an effort to deter and disrupt piracy.

O’Kennedy said the force last year disrupted 64 attempted hijackings by Somali pirates. The EU naval force also has used a strategy of destroying pirates’ ships, which normally include several skiffs and a mother vessel.

There is a belief that Somali pirates will not become too brutal with hostages because, he said, they know they eventually will get money. However as the pressure increases, it seems likely that the ferocity of attacks could be on the rise.

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