MANAMA, Bahrain – Rear Admiral Beom Rim Lee, Commander, Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, met today with Commodore Michiel B. Hijmans, head of Combined Task Force (CTF) 508, today to advance mutual strategy, communications and operations between the two tasks forces conducting anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin. CTF 151, embarked on ROKS Kang Gam Chan, is the counter-piracy task force of Combined Maritime Forces, and CTF 508 is the NATO component embarked on HNLMS de Zeven Provincien.
Pirates have adjusted to both the current monsoon conditions in the Somali Basin and the increased naval forces presence in the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) in the Gulf of Aden forcing them to find targets of opportunity elsewhere, the two CTF commanders agreed. The successful hijacking of M/V Motivator and other thwarted attempts in the southern Red Sea lead to a discussion for the need of increased sharing of information and coordination among active forces operating in the area. This also includes the regional governments and their coast guards that have responsibility for the passage of free commerce through their territorial waters.
As the monsoon season wanes toward the end of August, both commanders expect piracy attempts in the Somali Basin to increase. Through advanced planning and heightened communications between the task forces – including their European Union counterpart, Combined Task Force 465 – Lee and Hijmans hope to contain the pirates to the shore, and minimize successful attacks at sea.
“The general public and commercial shipping community needs to understand it is impossible for us to thwart all piracy in the 1.1 million square miles the Somali bandits target for piracy,” said Lee. “As long as the rewards outweigh the risks, and Somalia remains a chaotic state conducive to piracy, the illegal hostage taking of innocent mariners and their vessels will continue.”
Independent deployed units escorting convoys through the IRTC, including the Russians, Indians, Chinese, Japanese and Malaysians also play a key role in counter-piracy and are an important asset to the overall effort as they transit the area. Lee and Hijmans mutually agreed to call on the independent navies to readily patrol for suspicious activity, particularly between convoy operations.
Convoys, and the presence of naval forces do not relieve merchant mariners of responsibility to secure their own safety through the use of ‘Best Management Practices,’ both commanders noted. Best Management Practices are the widely accepted industry standard guidelines for self-protection for shipping vessels transiting high-risk waters. The latest version, Best Management Practices 3, is available on the Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa website at http://www.mschoa.org, and all vessels are encouraged to keep at least one copy on its bridge.
“Unfortunately, a lot of ships do not follow Best Management Practices, despite the risks and repeated communications that such procedures have been overwhelmingly effective in warding off pirate attacks,” Hijmans noted. “I strongly encourage merchant vessels to follow Best Management Practices at all times.”
The commanders agreed to meet again in the near future, noting that even in this age of instant electronic information, face-to-face communications cannot be underestimated, particularly when such an important mission is at stake.
CTF 151 is the multinational task force established by Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) in January 2009 to conduct counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and the east coast of Somalia. CMF, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, patrols more than 2.5 million square miles of international waters to conduct both integrated and coordinated operations with a common purpose: to increase the security and prosperity of the region by working together for a better future.