Rear Admiral Potts who is the operation commander of the European Union's counter piracy mission (EU NAVFOR) off the coast of Somalia today reminded the yachting and leisure craft community that whilst pirate attacks have reduced off the Horn of Africa over the past year, the threat of piracy remains and owners should continue to avoid transiting the High Risk Area - the southern Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and the Western part of the Indian Ocean.
"We are currently witnessing a tactical, yet wholly reversible success in the reduction of pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa and we very much welcome the shipping community's efforts to protect merchant ships transiting the area with the implementation of self-protection measures to deter attacks. Counter-piracy forces also continue to maintain pressure on Somali pirates by disrupting their activities at sea. That said, it cannot be stressed enough the significant danger that pleasure craft owners will put themselves in if they choose to transit the high risk sea area where pirates are known to operate."
About 12 yachts have been attacked, with their crews captured or killed by pirates in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean in the past few years. Nearly every recorded attack on a yacht has led to the crew being taken hostage and moved to Somalia, with extreme violence and mock executions being the norm. On average, maritime hostages have been held for over 7 months, however, some are held for much longer, with huge ransoms being demanded for release.
The message to the leisure craft industry from EU NAVFOR is clear - do not transit the High Risk Area.
NOTES TO EDITORS
The European Union is concerned with the continuing impact of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia on international maritime security and on the economic activities and security of countries in the region.
As a result, and as part of a comprehensive approach to Somalia, the EU launched the European Union Naval Force Somalia - Operation ATALANTA (EU NAVFOR - ATALANTA) within the framework of the European Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and in accordance with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) and International Law.
After the launch of EU NAVFOR - Operation ATALANTA in December 2008, the operation continues to successfully perform its mission and contributes to improving maritime security off the coast of Somalia and in the Indian Ocean. In March 2012 the Council of the EU extended the EU counter-piracy operation until December 2014.
By UNSC mandate, EU NAVFOR - Operation ATALANTA conducts:
the deterrence, prevention and repression of acts of piracy and armed robbery off the Somali coast;
the protection of vulnerable shipping off the Somali coast on a case by case basis;
in addition, EU NAVFOR - ATALANTA shall also contribute to the monitoring of fishing activities off the coast of Somalia.