From the latest ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping Report (to 6 May 09) here:
1. SOMALIA: EU Convoy Ships ‘Less Likely To Suffer Pirate Attacks’, 5 May 09. Just one vessel registered with the European Union’s anti-piracy operation was successfully hijacked in the first three months of the operation, according to the latest Brussels’ figures. Companies registering ships via the EU Navfor website were less likely to be victims of an attack than those choosing to go it alone off the Somali coast. “Since 12 December 2008, 41 attacks have been confirmed in the area of operations, resulting in seven actual hijackings. Only one of the seven hijacked vessels was following EU Navfor recommendations,” said the EU Council of Ministers, referring to the period to March 1. The EU Atalanta operation, the bloc’s first maritime venture,
escorted 11 World Food Programme vessels over the period, carrying 60,000 tonnes of food each week to the strife-ridden nation. Rather than being escorted, commercial vessels are organized into convoys which are then watched over by EU navy vessels stationed at strategic points. Ship operators register vessels over a website and are given convoy start times and locations. “The EU mission is not alone in the region,” the Council of Ministers pointed out. “Efficient coordination both with the shipping industry and with other naval units deployed by maritime powers (Russia, China and India) or groups (US-led coalition TF 151 + NATO) is therefore essential. “The Maritime Security Centre (Horn of Africa) website, developed by Operational Headquarters in conjunction with the shipping industry, and voluntary exchange of information and best practices are the means through which efficient coordination is being achieved.” The council, which represents the EU member states, is now under pressure to extend the Atalanta mission beyond its 12-month mandate, which expires this December (LL).
Of course, the message is somewhat tempered by the report (see here) of a ship in a EU convoy being captured by pirates while the ready helicopter was, according to some reports, being refueled on deck of an EU ship. This apparently delayed the aircraft’s departure sufficiently that the pirates got on the merchant before the helo arrived. The “Golden 15 minutes” holds true in convoys, too.