Ocean Shield, NATO Counter-piracy Mission, extended until the end of 2016

By Piracy

NATO Defense Ministers have announced that the Ocean Shield counter-piracy mission will be extended through 2016. The officials consider the threat in the Horn of Africa region as tangible.

As part of Ocean Shield, NATO vessels have been patrolling the waters off the Horn of Africa since August 2009. The operation aims to contribute to international counter-piracy efforts. The NATO Operation works closely with another marine forces (EU naval forces and US-led maritime forces) patrolling the Indian Ocean.

Since the start of Operation Ocean Shield, the piracy activity in the region has been significantly reduced. Three years ago, in 2011, the captured vessels were 24. For the same year, NATO recorded 129 attacks off Somalia. The following 2012, pirate attacks fallen drastically to 20. Since May 2012, no vessel has been captured by pirates off Somalia. Currently, no merchant vessel is held by Somalis.

Although the numbers show decline, NATO considers piracy as a real threat. The pirates still intend and posses capacity to attack vessels, because the root causes of piracy inside Somalia remain.

The NATO fleet, which operates from the Arabian Gulf (North) to the Seychelles (South) and from the the Gulf of Aden (West) to the Maldives (East), comprises Turkish, Spanish and Italian vessels. They cover an area larger that 2 million sq miles (about Western Europe size). They verify the marine traffic in the area, separating legitimate from suspected. In many cases, NATO vessels escort commercial ships to ensure their safe passage.

Picture: USS Farragut destroying a pirate skiff in the Gulf of Aden