Atalanta takes wind out of pirates’ sails

Pirates are a big danger for international shipping around the Horn of Africa. But in 2012, the number of attacks declined. One reason is heightened military presence – German soldiers are also involved.

The waters off the Horn of Africa are still considered the world’s most dangerous. For years, pirates have been attacking ships from the Somali coast, kidnapping the crew and demanding ransom. According to Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP), a project of non-governmental organization One Earth Future, last year, a total of 35 people lost their lives during attacks, rescue attempts or during months as hostages. One Earth put the costs caused by the estimated 800 to 1,500 pirates every year at almost $7 billion (5.4 billion euros). But pirate attacks have gone down in number in the Gulf of Aden and in the Indian Ocean, according to the International Chamber of Shipping.

While the organization counted 151 pirate assaults last year, of which 25 were successful, seen from the pirates’ perspective, by late August this year, there have been only 28 attacks – of which five were successful.

International army presence shows results

Pottengal Mukundan is the director of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which was set up by the International Trade Chamber to fight piracy. Mukundan said one reason for the decline was that many ships now have private security personnel on board. That keeps the pirates from capturing the ship, and it also has a deterrent effect. In addition, many ship owners now equip their ships better to protect them from attacks.

“But the most important reason that there are fewer pirate attacks are the international navies who chase the pirates’ parent ships, before they can even get ready for attack,” Mukundan told DW. In many cases, he added, the soldiers succeeded in confiscating weapons and small boats.

The European armed forces at sea played a key role, said Mukundan. Since 2008, the European Atalanta mission has been taking part in the fight against piracy with a fleet of nine war vessels. They’re also in charge of coordinating the measures taken by the international naval troops.

“In May, the soldiers attacked the pirates’ logistics base on the Somali coast,” Mukundan said. “They hit many petrol tanks, weapons arsenal and boats – and that has significantly reduced the pirates’ ability to fight.”

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Article written by Christina Ruta, courtesy of Deutsche Welle.

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