“According to our last year’s report, piracy is costing the world about US$6bn and most of it burdens the maritime industry. But as the situation improves, costs are coming down and the reduction is currently being assessed,” said Commodore Jorge Palma from the Portuguese Navy, who took over as Force Commander of the EU Navfor's Somalia-Operation Atalanta in April.
Commodore Palma, who was in Muscat heading the EU Navfor mission with Portuguese frigate NRP Álvares Cabral, said the situation is improving, but a lot still needs to be done to control piracy.
“The maritime industry and the member states that engage in assets operations incur huge costs due to piracy. This is in addition to losses incurred when pirates hijack the ships."
“Piracy activities have been reducing since 2011 and more significantly in 2012. So far we have had very few incidents this year, but we remain vigilant. This will prevail if all those involved - the industry, naval forces, regional forces as well as the Somali government - remain engaged as we have been,” he said.
Until December 2014, the time till which the mission will be active, EU Navfor hopes to sustain the number of assets (ships and aircraft) at sea.
“We do not have plans to decrease or increase the number of assets. At the moment, we have nine ships and two patrol aircrafts. Member states of the European Union will be engaged in the operations till December 2014. The engagement is there to fulfil the mission with close cooperation with other forces as well as independent players,” he added.
Commodore Palma said Oman's support is very important to build awareness of the situation in the region and secure vulnerable shipping.
“We are delighted to get the support we need from Omani authorities, from whom we have received good cooperation on many issues ever since we have been working in the region.”
He added that EU Navfor remains focused on deterring and disrupting acts of piracy, contributing to the protection of vulnerable shipping and maintaining close cooperation with all stakeholders, such as other counter piracy forces, regional partner states and the industry.
According to him, one of the main tasks of the EU Navfor is also to provide protection to world food programmes.
“We have provided 100 per cent protection to the World Food Programme vessels since 2008. We have been able to reach 1.5mn people in Somalia through the World Food Progamme shipment. Famine is not the failure of EU Navfor,” he said referring to the famine that killed many Somalis in the last few years."
Álvares Cabral, hosting the Force Commander and his multinational staff, arrived in Muscat on May 3 and leaves on Wednesday to continue Operation Atalanta for the next four months.