The Council yesterday (28 November) extended the mandate of the EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation Atalanta until the end of 2018. The Council has also allocated more than 11 million euros to the operation’s budget from the so-called common costs. The EU’s Naval Force Somalia Operation Atalanta was launched in December 2008 with the aim to contribute to the deterrence, prevention and repression of acts of piracy and armed robbery off the Somali coast. The operation is part of the EU’s comprehensive approach for a peaceful, stable and democratic Somalia and the Horn of Africa.
The mission protects vessels of the World Food Program (WFP), African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and other vulnerable shipping, monitors fishing activities off the coast of Somalia and supports other EU missions and programs in the region. The mission’s most important goal is, however, deterrence and disruption of piracy and armed robbery at sea as the EU is concerned with the effect of Somali-based piracy and armed robbery at sea off the Horn of Africa and in the Western Indian Ocean.
Somali-based piracy is characterized by criminals taking control of vessels transiting the High Risk Area in the region and extorting ransom money for the crew, the vessel and cargo: this bears all the features of organized crime. Crews held hostage by pirates often face a prolonged period of captivity, the average being five months, although some hostages have been held for almost three years. Moreover, piracy impacts on international trade and maritime security and on the economic activities and security of countries in the region.
EU NAVFOR is considered a success as it has become highly effective in preventing attacks before they happen. At the height of Somali piracy in January 2011, 736 hostages and 32 ships were being held by pirates. In February of 2012, figures from the UN suggested that 10 vessels had been held by Somali pirates, 159 hostages captured and some $146 million in ransom paid to the gangs. By October 2016 that number has dropped to no hostages and ships being held.