The European Union (EU) has extended its counter-piracy initiative, Operation Atalanta, by another two years to help prevent pirate attacks on seafarers off the coast of Somalia.
Under the new extension, the operation, also known as European Union Naval Force Operation Atalanta (EU NAVFOR) has been mandated to prevent, disrupt and repress piracy acts off the coast of Somalia until 31 December 2018.
The extension has been granted amidst concerns within EU states that despite the current dormant situation of pirate attacks on merchant ships transiting the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, pirates still have the intent and ability to go out to sea and mount an attack.
Last month, a chemical tanker, CPO Korea, was attacked by six armed men 330nm off the east coast of Somalia.
Launched in 2008, the EU NAVFOR Somalia operation has been able to reduce pirate incidents in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
So far, the operation, along with its international partners, has escorted over one million tonnes of humanitarian aid for the Somali people.
During the peak of piracy in the region in January 2011, more than 700 hostages and 32 vessels were being held by Somali pirates, with huge ransoms demanded for their release.
According to EU NAVFOR, now no vessels or hostages are being held by Somali pirates.
Under Operation Atalanta, EU NAVFOR crews also assist with other EU missions and instruments working within Somalia and the wider region to boost maritime domain awareness, security, local governance, and law enforcement.
EU NAVFOR is further planning to work with regional partners and the shipping industry to explore new measures to ensure suppression of Somali-based piracy after the end of the newly granted extension.
Image: Operation Atalanta warships deter and disrupt piracy. Photo: courtesy of EUNAVFOR.