A pan-Arab task force under Saudi Arabian command could soon join the other forces in fighting piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin.
A pan-Arab task force under Saudi Arabian command could soon join the other forces in fighting piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin, according to a top European naval officer.
"The pan-Arab task force will join others in the near future and the first command will be with Saudi Arabia," Commodore Pieter Bindt, Force Commander of the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR), said at a media briefing on board the Dutch naval vessel HNLMS Evertsen, which is here to take on provisions and fuel.
In reply to a question, the senior Dutch naval officer said that Oman was currently not contemplating joining the Pan Arab Force.
The Evertsen arrived last week at Qaboos Port on a routine port call.
Commodore Bindt was categorical in saying that the problem of piracy cannot be wished away. "It would be naïve and unimaginative to think that the problem of piracy can be solved," the silver-haired naval officer said.
"There are more than 3,000, may be 5,000, skiffs [small flat-bottomed open boats] in Somalia and good power of money gives rise to these pirates," he believes.
"The Somali Basin is a big challenge because it is a huge area," he said.
However, he emphasised that constant monitoring of the internationally recognised transit corridor (IRTC) by EU naval forces as well as the other forces had reduced the number of piracy cases in the area since August.
Commodore Bindt, at the same time, said he was amazed how some ships try to cut corners and take risky routes, falling prey to the Somalia-based pirates. "There are ships that don't heed our advice and take the risk [of being hijacked]," he said.
He said that the forces in the area can deter, prevent and repress piracy, but the real solution was somewhere else. "The solution is on land, it doesn't require rocket science to know that," he said rather wryly. He suggested development in Somalia as well as financial aid which, the Commodore added, the EU was providing.
Describing the importance of the area for the global energy sector, he said that 62 per cent of its oil and 40 per cent of its gas pass through the Gulf of Aden. The EU naval force's Dutch officer also revealed that currently 140 suspected pirates were awaiting trial in Kenya.
"The EU had an arrangement with Kenya to try pirates and the EU naval force had handed over 75 pirates recently, taking the total to 140."
He expressed full faith in the Kenyan judiciary and detention facilities. "Their legal system is comparable and they have adapted their detention facilities to the EU standards for holding pirates," he said.
Commodore Bindt said that the naval assets from a number of EU countries currently make up the EU naval force, which has been conducting a military operation ? code-named "Operation Atalanta' ? to deter and disrupt piracy off the coast of Somalia.
"Our mandate is to protect World Food Programme (WFP) shipping that moves food from Mombasa to Mogadishu, Bosasso and Berbara on the Somali coast," the Dutch naval chief said, adding that they also deter, prevent and repress piracy.