EUNAVFOR Med should be multi-agency

PMSC hopes for repeat of success of Operation Atalanta.

The EU Naval Force mission in the Mediterranean will need to be multi-agency in outlook if it is to succeed

Strong liaison across different agencies, including the commercial shipping sector will need to be a central element in the EU’s plans to act against human traffickers in the Mediterranean says leading maritime security company MAST.

Whilst talks are currently taking place in Brussels focused on the EU plans to set up a European Naval Force to fight people smuggling operations in Libya, the lessons learnt from Operation Atalanta (the EU’s anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia) must not be forgotten.

Gerry Northwood OBE, COO of MAST and a former Royal Navy Captain who was Head of Plans at the inception of Operation Atalanta, said:

The importance of forward looking and positive relations between the military and private sectors should not be under estimated when developing a solution for the current African migrants crisis.

Operation Atalanta off Somalia was successful because it recognised the importance of de-confliction and co-operation with the US led coalition in the Indian Ocean, with NATO and with other military forces. But piracy only started to be suppressed once a meaningful liaison was established with the commercial shipping sector. With this came Best Management Practices and eventually the trump card was dealt when it became acceptable to use armed guards on board ships

Northwood added:

Best Management Practices 4 (BMP4) has been effective in hardening the vessels so that even an unarmed merchant ship, while by no means impregnable to an attack by pirates, is now much harder to capture. This buys the crew important time to call and wait for help while they shelter in their safe area or citadel.

However, the decisive factor in suppressing Somali piracy has been the deployment of armed guards. No vessel with armed security on board has been captured by pirates. Private security has given seafarers peace of mind and made the Indian Ocean a place where they can actually go to work and not fear being captured by Somalis and held hostage for months or even years.

“EU plans to set up a similar maritime operation to fight human smuggling gangs in Libya will only be successful if they emulate Operation Atalanta and dare to take a genuinely multi-agency approach, and are willing to work across the full spectrum of the private sector.


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