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By Yvonne Headington

06 May 12. While counter-piracy operations around the Horn of Africa have achieved recent successes, the threat to life and shipping remains constant. The international naval effort against piracy, which includes the EU, NATO and multinational elements, involves complex command and control arrangements as well as innovative solutions.

The Piracy Cost

The piracy problem around the Horn of Africa emerged as a by-product of instability within Somalia. Opportunistic attacks, which began in the Gulf of Aden, have spread during the past three years to the Somali Basin and the north-western Indian Ocean up to the Strait of Hormuz. More recently, the buccaneers have been forced to extend operations further to the north-east Indian Ocean as international counter-piracy efforts have become increasingly successful in suppressing their activities.

According to NATO figures, there were just four pirate attacks in January 2012 all of which were unsuccessful. This figure compares with 29 attacks reported for January 2011 resulting in six vessels being pirated.

Despite successes, the economic cost of piracy remains stark. In February 2012, Oceans Beyond Piracy (part of the US-based One Earth Future Foundation) estimated that the 2011 economic burden of piracy was between $6,600m and $6,900m; some 80% of these costs being borne by the shipping industry. The overall figure includes the following:

* $2,700m for fuel costs associated with increased speeds of vessels transiting high-risk areas.
* $1,300m for military counter-piracy operations.
* $1,100m for security equipment and armed guards.
* $635m attributed to insurance.
* $486m to $680m cost of re-routing vessels.
* $195m for increased labour costs and seafarers’ danger pay.

Combating the Problem

Naval counter-piracy efforts evolved from a French initiative in 2007 to provide escorts for vessels contracted by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to deliver food aid to Somalia. At this time only Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150), part of Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), was providing general maritime security covering an area from the Gulf of Oman to the Indian Ocean.

CMF is currently commanded by Vice Admiral Mark Fox USN who also serves as Commander US Navy Central Command and the US Navy Fifth Fleet. All three commands are co-located in Bahrain. Commodore Simon Ancona RN serves as Deputy Commander CMF as well as the UK Maritime Component Commander (UKMCC), also based in Bahrain.

In October 2008, NATO established WFP escort operations under OO ALLIED PROVIDER and subsequently under OP ALLIED PROTECTOR. OP ATALANTA was launched by European Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Somalia in December 2008 with the specific remit of protecting “vulnerable vessels” off the coast of Somalia and preventing “acts of piracy”. EU NAVFOR’s HQ is at Northwood (UK) under the command of Rear Admiral Duncan Potts RN.

Two further counter-piracy missions have also been established: CTF-151 (part of CMF) in January 2009 and NATO’s OP OCEAN SHIELD in August 2009 (commanded by the NATO Maritime Component Command, also located at Northwood).

The Big Three

EU NAVFOR typically comprises four to seven surface combat vessels and two to three maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft (CN-235 from Spain, Swearingen Merlin from Luxembourg, Atlantique 2 from France and German P-3 Orion). Contributing nations include: Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Rear Admiral Dupuis of the French Navy assumed EU Force Commander, which rotates on a four-monthly basis, on 7 April 2012 in FS MARNE. Costs of the operation are shared by EU Member States and amounted to €8.4m in 2010 and €8.05m in 2011.

CTF-151 units are drawn from the 26 members of the CMF. Contributing CMF nations include 14 NATO members as well as Australia, Bahrain, Japan, Jordan, Re

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