The Ocean Shield counter-piracy mission has been extended by Nato defence ministers, as part of the broad international effort to continue the fight against maritime piracy until the end of 2016.
The extension will allow naval forces, including US-led maritime forces and EU naval forces, to work closely in patrolling the Indian Ocean as well as protect one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.
About half of some 90% of all global trade that is carried out by sea passes through the Indian Ocean.
As part of Operation Ocean Shield, Nato ships have patrolled the waters off the Horn of Africa since August 2009, which has resulted in significant reduction of pirate activity in the region.
Nato recorded 129 pirate attacks off Somalia in 2011, which further declined to 20 in 2012. Since May 2012, Somali pirates have not captured a single ship nor held any merchant ships.
The Nato fleet currently includes ships from Spain, Italy and Turkey, which operate from the Arabian Gulf to the north, the Seychelles in the south, the Gulf of Aden to the west, and the Maldives in the east.
The ships are capable of actively pursuing suspected pirate ships to prevent attacks, verify the activity of shipping off Somalia, separating out legitimate maritime traffic from suspected pirate vessels.
The counter-piracy efforts by Nato have helped reduce piracy costs to the world economy, which according to the World Bank, estimates in 2013 was $18bn a year.
Image: Nato ships to continue the fight against maritime piracy until the end of 2016. Photo: courtesy of NATO.