The Operation Commander of the EU Naval Force, Rear Admiral Bob Tarrant, has issued a renewed warning that Somali pirates are still determined to get out to sea and, if presented with an easy target, will attack. "I am very concerned that seafarers and nations will lower their guard and support for counter piracy operations in the belief that the piracy threat is over. It is not; it is merely contained. We should remember that at its height in January 2011, 32 ships were pirated by Somali pirates and 736 hostages were held. It is crucial that we remain vigilant or the number of attacks will once again rise."
The Admiral's warning comes days after EU Naval Force warship ESPS Rayo located a skiff with six men on board 320 nautical miles off the Somali coast. It is highly unusual to see these small, open top boats so far out to sea, so a team from Rayo went across to investigate.
The 6 men could not explain why they had sailed so far from land, there was no evidence of trade or legal activity and Rayo's crew found equipment on board that is commonly related to piracy.
Whilst there was not enough evidence on this occasion that could have guaranteed a legal prosecution, the decision was taken to return the men to the Somali coast so that they could not pose any potential risk to passing ships.
Speaking about the incident EU Naval Force Spokesperson, Lieutenant Commander Jacqueline Sherriff said "Whilst not possible this time, when suspect pirates are apprehended by the EU Naval Force, every effort is made to achieve a prosecution, as demonstrated in recent months by the legal transfers by the European Union of suspect pirates to Mauritius and The Seychelles authorities."
The Rayo incident comes exactly one year since the last ship, chemical tanker MV Smyrni, was seized by armed pirates off the Somali coast. Thankfully MV Smyrni and her crew were released 2 months ago, after 10 months in captivity. However, since May last year, 9 more ships have been attacked and, with 2 ships and 54 hostages still being held and pirates once again issuing death threats to hostages if ransoms are not paid, it is clear that there is no room for complacency.