29 December 2012

Tanzania: Presence of Coalition Eases Piracy in the Indian Ocean

THE large presence of coalition forces in the Indian Ocean and Gulf waters has seen a significant reduction of piracy incidents, much to the delight of the combatants patrolling the extensive coastline.

The Royal Navy warship HMS Northumberland Commander Paddy Dowsett whose ship docked at the Dar es Salaam Port , told the 'Daily News' that incidents of piracy had dropped this year and calm has relatively prevailed.

"The drop in piracy can be attributed to intensified presence of coalition forces but it could also mean that the operatives are working in smaller groups or regrouping," he said.

Commander Dowsett also attributed the improved situation to the monsoon seasons in the Indian Ocean region and the good policing and convoy protection by shipping companies along the International Recommended Transit Corridor.

He said other measures taken by the crew of HMS Northumberland include building a good rapport with fishing boats in the region which has proved to be an effective tool of intelligence gathering.

"With the use of our boarding crew and especially for ships that have been at the area for so long, we take fruits and fresh water to them and from them we managed to gather intelligence information and occasionally excellent fish," he explained.

Commander Dowsett, however, cautioned as long as piracy requires low investment and high risk but has large rewards the threat of pirates is very high and called for everyone not to let their guard down.

The docking of HMS Northumberland symbolises the Royal Navy's continued cooperation and commitment to countering piracy and shared responsibility for the protection of shipping and maritime infrastructure in the region.

The ship's weapon engineer and public relations officer, Lieutenant Commander Dave Fearon explained that during their five day stay, some of the crew members would visit the Community Centre in Kigamboni which will enforce the relationship between the two sea faring countries and building confidence in the UK defence.

Northumberland has also been working with a number of navies in the Combined Maritime Force, a partnership that jointly address challenges like terrorism, piracy and smuggling which can threaten the security and economy of the region.

The ship is a Type 23 Frigate equipped with a Merlin helicopter, two 40 knot seaboats and fitted with the vertical launch Seawolf system; this is the ship's first line of defence against aircraft and incoming missile attack. The Harpoon missile system is relied upon for long range surface to surface targets. She is capable of defending against underwater threats with her Magazine Torpedo Launch System (MTLS).

Surgeon Lieutenant Sebastian Nixon is the ship's Medical Officer who has two years experience as a trained doctor and he says that working in the remote environment provides him with unique challenges that make it worthwhile.

"Unlike many civilian doctors, in three weeks I have visited eight to nine countries and though the ship isn't equipped with sophisticated gadgets, being able to work in the middle of nowhere brings interesting challenges," he said.

Clad in black army boots, a pair of camouflage pants, black T-shirt and a Green Beret slanting on the side of his head, Captain James Fiasey, a Royal Marine Commando said that in spite of the gruelling training to be a commando, he has no regrets.

Captain Fiasey is the head of the boarding missions when searching for pirates and narcotics and said that unlike his civilian counterparts, he has easy access to his boss (Commander Dowsett) and usually plan out their operations with him.

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