Representatives from international counter-piracy organisations, as well as nations deploying warships independently, have come to together in Bahrain to discuss how they can best work together to combat the threat posed to shipping by criminal gangs from Somalia.
NATO chaired the 34th Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) meeting in Bahrain on 3 December 2014. The meeting, hosted on a rotational basis by NATO, the European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) and the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), included 108 representatives from 34 nations. Captain Sebahattin Coruk from the Turkish Navy, Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations at NATO’s Maritime Command headquarters in Northwood, UK, chaired the SHADE conference.
SHADE provides an international forum for frank and open discussions about ongoing counter-piracy operations in the Southern Red Sea, the Bab El-Mandeb strait, the Gulf of Aden, the Somali Basin and the sea lanes around the Horn of Africa. The day comprised a series of meetings between representatives from many organisations, both civilian and military, and offered an opportunity for the delegates to listen to keynote speakers who provided a broader understanding of the wider issues surrounding piracy in the region.
The conference opened with a commercial shipping update brief from Dr Phil Belcher from the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners. Dr Belcher paid tribute to positive contribution made by organisations such as CMF, EUNAVFOR, NATO and other regional powers since 2008. He said:
“The intent to hijack vessels remains, but the opportunity for piracy has been reduced by the number of naval assets in the region. If the ships leave, the pirates will undoubtedly return.”
Lieutenant Commander Peter Harriman from the UK’s Maritime Trade Organisation in Dubai explained the purpose of his organisation:
“UKMTO contributes to regional freedom of navigation by acting as the primary point of contact for merchant vessels transiting the High Risk Area. As part of their reassurance role, UKMTO visits ports in the region to update masters and ships crew of the latest piracy incidents. Through a well-respected and long-established communications network, UKMTO are able to share information quickly and liaise with both the merchant shipping community and military forces.”
The SHADE conference allows nations and organisations who would not normally coordinate their naval operations to meet on a regular basis and plan how best to combat piracy.
Lieutenant Colonel Gilles Couture from the Royal Canadian Air Force is the Chief of the Air Coordination Element of CMF. He said:
“We cannot replace the human interaction which, at SHADE, allows us to share the efforts we all make and to coordinate the maritime and air picture in support of mariners in the region.”
Rear Admiral Pakorn Wanich from the Royal Thai Navy is the commander of CMF’s counter-piracy task group, CTF-151. He said:
“The frank and open discussions about ongoing counter-piracy threats, trends and expectations at SHADE provides huge momentum in counter-piracy operations. This will create counter-piracy awareness to maritime community in a wider picture. Moreover, the information and knowledge gained during SHADE could support counter-piracy players to do things better.”