22 NAVY NEWS, AUGUST 2009
Fighting piracy with a m blank chart
A GUN rattles, stitching
in the spring and autumn.
the sea with lead.
To strengthen this mix is a
number of embedded personnel
The splashes home in on
from the Merchant Navy
a small boat which quickly
community, providing support
succumbs to a flash of fire and and practical advice to their
sinks under a pall of smoke. military colleagues – the first real
Safe on board a European direct working together under
warship are a handful of bedraggled such circumstances that the
mariners and their erstwhile military and merchant navies have
captors, the former gaining in conducted in partnership.
confidence, the latter having lost The MSC-HOA also runs an
their swagger as soon as the frigate associated website which ensures
loomed on the horizon. information is available to all
A keyboard rattles, sending a shipping within minutes.
signal which automatically issues All shipping which registers, that
a string of emails. is – and therein lies a problem.
The clicks of keyboard and
The whole scheme is voluntary,
mouse barely disturbs the quiet
but just over 5,000 registrations
of the nondescript office in a
have been made – 45 per cent of
nondescript building in an affluent
the shipping which passes through
suburb of north London.
the brigands’ back yard is not
Two very different scenarios
on Atalanta’s books, despite the
– but in which one are the
fact that registration, and all the
dangerous pirates of the Somali
protection it brings with it, is free.
coast being pushed to the margins
There are sound reasons for
and – hopefully – out of business?
merchantmen not signing up –
Well done to all of you who
lack of IT equipment on board,
perhaps, or the company may be a
Because while there is no doubt
that 4,000 tons of steel bristling
The powers-that-be are
with weapons can spoil any pirate’s
addressing that issue – see opposite
day, the low-profile, hi-tech work
for one such idea.
being done at Northwood HQ is
But for the majority who do
no less significant.
register there is a commercial
The nondescript office is at the
nexus which connects neatly into
heart of Operation Atalanta, the
the military side of the MSC-
European Union’s first venture
HOA and provides a tailored
into military matters at sea.
And despite its appearance,
Let’s take an example of a ship
the room represents a radical
passing through the area to illustrate
approach to an age-old problem by
how it works, one of 25,000 that
harnessing the power of modern
transit the region annually.
communications – all brought
The MV Brady is a hard-
together through the good offices
working bulk carrier plying its
of a handful of RN personnel and
trade between the Far East and
● The seaboat of HSwMS Stockholm, fl ying both her national fl ag and the European Union fl ag, pulls away from the Swedish corvette
their European colleagues.
during exercises in the Gulf of Aden. The Swedes currently have three ships operating with the Operation Atalanta group, the others being
Ireland, and its owners, the Crayon
Op Atalanta originally had an
Stockholm’s sister HSwMS Malmö and support ship HSwMS Trossö
Corporation, has registered the
end date of December this year,
Picture: Sgt Johan Lundahl (Swedish Combat Camera team)
Brady with the MSC-HOA.
but earlier this summer it was
The Master of the Brady,
extended by at least a further
some structure to the naval we can’t do anything about it.” vulnerable vessels, again the ‘low Instead, the co-operation extends Capt Hargreaves, is registered
12 months, giving senior officers
counterpiracy effort. And the EU took the initiative and the slow.’ to the shipping companies, with with Atalanta, and details of his
a chance to take stock and
But the EU effort is of wider in formalising the transit corridor “We are not the only force representatives of shippers, agents, movements are passed on to the
implement longer-term plans.
benefit than just riding shotgun for and setting up the SHADE – out there. NATO and coalition insurers and flag registration states military component.
In part the extension indicates
freighters heading for Mogadishu the Shared Awareness and maritime forces (CFM) also have all having a place at the table. Capt Hargreaves is aware that
that the threat remains – but
and other Somali ports. Deconfliction forum, according to many vessels in the area, so we At the heart of Atalanta is the pirates are active in a section of
equally, it demonstrates that
Warships are constantly Cdr George. took the initiative and established Maritime Security Centre – Horn the transit corridor close to its
Atalanta has had an impact in
monitoring their patch, gathering “We were instrumental in a community called the SHADE. of Africa (MSC-HOA), another eastern end, so he is advised that
safeguarding shipping and ensuring
intelligence on shipping patterns ironing out this transit corridor,” “That SHADE has helped us EU innovation which provides a to make best use of naval cover
the free flow of global trade.
which can help identify the he said. to divide up the transit corridor round-the-clock control centre he should arrive at the affected
That is clear from some of the
unusual, rogue elements. “Previously it dog-legged into blocks, which are patrolled by monitoring ships. ‘block’ at 0400 on a certain day.
“We also protect other around the coast, and went closer individual vessels.” Staffed by mild-mannered By doing so, the slow Brady will
The prime function of
vulnerable shipping – the slow, the in, and as a result went straight By doing so, the corridor – Spaniards, Scandinavians, start her transit of the block long
Atalanta is to ensure World Food
low, the ones that could easily be through the fishing grounds of almost 500 miles long and a Germans and the like – eight before faster ships, but the relative
Programme (WFP) ships get
boarded,” said Cdr George. the Yemenis, which in its turn couple of dozen miles across, nations are currently represented speeds will cause them to bunch
through to Somali ports to deliver
“But we are also out there to registered lots of false alarms. allowing for two ‘lanes’ of traffic – – the Joint Operating Centre (JOC) as they go, making it easier for EU,
their vital cargoes of food aid by
deter, and what we have found is “So in liaison with the has warships patrolling at around co-ordinates details of traffic and NATO, CFM or national forces to
providing armed protection.
that the presence of EUNAVFOR international shipping companies, 50-mile intervals, which means incidents, ensuring information shepherd them through.
And since the first ship sailed,
itself, just the presence of those we have managed to straighten that no ship in the sanitised zone flows in and out efficiently. “No two ships travel at the
not a single freighter has been
warships, is enough to deter out that line; that line could then should be beyond the help of a A regularly-updated screen on a same speed, so if we were to
troubled by pirates – well over 30
would-be pirates.” corral all the traffic and provide fighting ship if pirates strike. wall shows the state of play in terms try to group people together for
shipments have got through.
If an Atalanta ship catches us with an opportunity to provide But we are not talking convoys of the positions of warships and an escorted convoy, either ships
Staff Officer (Plans) Cdr Dave
pirates red-handed, there is that overwatch that we planned to here, where commercial masters merchantmen, with cruise liners would be left behind or ships
George said that initial pirate
a mandate to arrest them and do, but specifically targeting the take orders from naval officers. adding to the mix, predominantly would be in advance of us,” said
attacks were by poorly-equipped,
hand them over to Kenya for
poorly-armed and disorganised
prosecution in a court of law.
bands of opportunists who were
With an assortment of task
unlikely to be seasoned mariners
groups and warships prowling
– but a success rate of one in three
the seas – India, China, Japan
attacks, and a multi-million dollar
and Malaysia all have a presence,
pay-off a distinct possibility, made
among others – there was an
the ventures extremely attractive. overriding need for co-ordination,
Within months they had to avoid bunching or duplication
developed tactics, ranging of resources.
hundreds of miles out into the As Rear Admiral Peter Hudson,
Indian Ocean by using a logistical who recently took over as head of
mothership – often a hijacked Op Atalanta from Rear Admiral
fishing vessel – and attacking in Philip Jones, said: “We tell
fast skiffs. shipping companies where I am
With two million square miles going to put ships.
of ocean to cover, and a Somali “They cannot wander around
coastline around the same length willy-nilly, so that is the advice I
as the eastern seaboard of the give them.
United States, there had to be “If they choose not to take it,
State of danger
SOMALIA and her coastal waters droughts, while others have been
are regarded as one of the most blighted by floods.
dangerous places on Earth. The WFP supplies enough
A combination of civil strife, provisions for almost 2.5 million
the displacement of massive people each month, while a
numbers of refugees, poverty and further 1.1 million people rely on
erratic weather has led to a need other organisations, including the
for a considerable humanitarian International Committee of the
operation – especially the provision Red Cross, for their survival.
of basic food. Around 90 per cent of WFP
Somalia has a relatively supplies are transported by sea,
undeveloped economy, and acute and because of the presence of
malnutrition rates are high – above warships committed by several
20 per cent in some regions. nations – including the UK –
According to the World Food to escort these freighters, not a
Programme (WFP), Somalia has single ship has been attacked by
some of the world’s worst health pirates since the first consignment
indicators; life expectancy at birth arrived in November 2007 under
is 46 years, while a quarter of the watchful eyes of the French.
children die before they reach the Without escorts, shippers are
age of five. nervous of delivering into Somalia,
Parts of the country suffer and frequently refuse to do so.
● A group of suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden is approached by HMS Lancaster Picture: LA(Phot) Brian Douglas
022-023_NN_aug.indd 1 21/7/09 11:58:44
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