Turkish navy frigate underway

The Turkish navy frigate TCG Gemlik (F 492), flagship for Combined Task Force 151 anti-piracy coalition, maintains a careful watch as a boarding team approaches a suspected pirate skiff. U.S. Navy photo from 2012

Naval Task Force Holding Somali Piracy Operation as a Reminder to Shipping Not to Let Its Guard Down

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 9604
January 5, 2023

A multi-national naval task force tasked with combating piracy in the Somali basin is getting ready to conduct a five-day operation aimed at increasing naval presence and informing the maritime community on the continuing risks to shipping despite a lull in Somali piracy and expiration of a key industry designation.

The focused operation, known as Mare Liberum, comes as the shipping industry has removed its “High Risk Area” (HRA) designation for the western Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden, and southern Red Sea as of January 1, 2023.

The operation is being hosted by the Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151), which is currently under Brazilian leadership. The task force was established in 2009 with a specific piracy mission-based mandate in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions. Working alongside European Union Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR) and other partners, CTF 151 helps to patrol the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) through the Gulf of Aden.

CTF says the operation should serve as a reminder that Somali-based piracy has not been eradicated.

The Indian Ocean HRA was established in 2010 at the height of Somali piracy, when on average a ship was attacked about once every other day. But thanks to these coordinated counter-piracy efforts, along with increased use of private armed security guards, improving conditions ashore, and the industry’s use of Best Management Practices 5 guidance, piracy incidents started to fall off rapidly and the free flow of commerce has been mostly re-established in the region.

According to CTF 151, the last attack by pirates in the Somali Basin took place in April 2019 and was ultimately unsuccessful. The last successful piracy attack was in Spring 2017, marking just the first hijacking since 2012.

As the Mare Liberum is set to kick off on Wednesday, CTF 151 wants to remind the shipping industry to not to let its guard down, including continue following the BMP 5 instructions and navigate through the International Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) despite the removal of the HRA designation.

“It is an achievement of the CMF and EU NAVFOR on its objective of reassure the international community,. However, this sense of security might represent a risk, because it can cause a relaxation in the BMP5 procedures by merchant vessels,” the task force said in a notice.

Operation Mare Liberum will take place from January 5-9, 2023.

“Therefore, during this period, CTF 151 will coordinate an effort of multinational assets, as vessels, aircrafts, unmanned elements, satellite systems and maritime organizations that will work together in an area which encompass some of the world’s most important shipping lanes, in order to contribute to the free flow of navigation, develop capacity for regional leadership and reassure the international community,” CTF 151 said in its notice.

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