Senior Kenyan and European officials met yesterday in Mombasa where the flagship of the European Union’s Atalanta operation, the ITS Carlos Margottini, was making a port visit. Kenya’s National Assembly is represented by members of its Defence and Foreign Relations Committee, led by its chairman Hon. Katoo Ole Metito.
The ITS Carlos Margottini, alongside the Spanish Warship ESPS Meteoro, is tackling piracy and armed robbery off the Somalian coast. European Union naval forces are also working with other organisations to strengthen maritime security and protect vulnerable shipping in the Horn of Africa and in the Western Indian Ocean.
Since its launch in 2008 the Atalanta naval force, in co-operation with her counter-piracy partners, 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. Crews held hostage by pirates often faced a prolonged period of captivity, the average being 5 months, with some hostages were held for almost three years. By October 2016 no hostages and ships were being held.
Today the EU naval force works in a collaborative way with partners such as Combined Maritime Forces as well as other nations’ counter-piracy task forces including China, India and Russia. This cooperation will continue and grow stronger as the operation continues, the Operation Commander, Major General Charlie Stickland said:
“Atalanta now acts as a catalyst, encouraging and supporting the development of maritime capability across the region.”
The Deputy EU Ambassador to Kenya, Mr Bruno Pozzi, also noted the importance of Atalanta’s work for the “blue economy” (the sustainable use of ocean resources):
“Both Kenya and the EU are seeking to promote the development of the blue economy. This depends on good maritime security and safe maritime routes, for which Atalanta and its partners are vital in this part of the world.”
Atalanta operates in an area covering the southern Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and a large part of the Indian Ocean, including the Seychelles, Mauritius and Comoros. The area of operations also includes the Somali coastal territory, as well as its territorial and internal waters. EU warships also conduct patrols in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.