EU NAVFOR new tactics have reduced pirate attacks

Force Com­man­der Jan Thörn­qvist in mid-term: “EU NAVFOR new tac­tics have reduced pirate attacks”
EU NAVFOR’s new tac­tic has been suc­cess­ful, we are dis­rupt­ing more sus­pect­ed pirates near the coast, before they put on the high seas and con­duct hijack­ings. The chal­lenge is that once they get through they ven­ture fur­ther and fur­ther out on the Indi­an Ocean,” said Rear Admi­ral (LH) Jan Thörn­qvist when he sums up his first two-month as Force Com­man­der.

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The Swedish lead of EU NAVFOR – oper­at­ing in the Indi­an Ocean, the Gulf of Aden and the south­ern Red Sea – is now half way through the time of its rota­tion. In mid-April, Admi­ral Jan Thörn­qvist took com­mand over the EU fleet off Soma­lia and became the first Swedish Force Com­man­der to lead an EU-mis­sion. Every­thing is not “hunt­ing pirates” even if that gets more head­lines. So far under Swedish lead­er­ship The EU Task Force has con­duct­ed eight escorts for the UN agency World Food Pro­gramme (WFP) and 13 escorts of the African Union’s peace­keep­ing oper­a­tion in Soma­lia (AMISOM).

“It is impor­tant that we solve our main tasks, to escort WFP ships with human­i­tar­i­an aid to Somalia’s 1.6 mil­lion inter­nal­ly dis­placed per­sons and to escort the AMISOM trans­ports”, notes Force Com­man­der Jan Thörn­qvist.

The Swedish admi­ral and his multi­na­tion­al Force Head­quar­ters, FHQ, have seen both suc­cess­es and tough chal­lenges. The fact that the new more proac­tive EU NAV­FOR-tac­tics are suc­cess­ful is proven by sta­tis­tics; In the first two months, the force man­aged to dis­rupt or pre­vent pira­cy at about 15 times and a dozen pirate ships, with equip­ment and weapons, were destroyed or seized by the EU NAVFOR.

A tough chal­lenge in the first peri­od of 2010 has been that the pirates are fur­ther out in the Indi­an Ocean, some­times clos­er to India than Soma­lia. One exam­ple is the hijack­ing April 18, as far as 1200 nau­ti­cal mil east of the coast of Soma­lia. Com­pared to the same peri­od a year ago, data sug­gest two things: the total num­ber of pirate attacks have increased by 150 per­cent, but the num­ber of com­plet­ed hijack­ings dropped by 25 per­cent.

“Pirates recruit more young men who are sent fur­ther out on the high seas. Their plan is appar­ent­ly to make a large num­ber of attacks over a larg­er area, but we are often able to dis­rupt them before they com­plete a hijack,” says Admi­ral Thörn­qvist.

Now in June and July, the mon­soon is increas­ing and it becomes more dif­fi­cult for pirates to oper­ate east of Soma­lia, in the Indi­an Ocean and for some time the focus moves north, to the more shel­tered Gulf of Aden.

“From a Swedish per­spec­tive, we note that HSwMS Carl­skro­na has worked very well as Flag ship and the new Swedish heli­copter, Agus­ta 109 LUH, has shown a high­er avail­abil­i­ty than we count­ed on in this tough cli­mate. We also realised that hav­ing a heli­copter on board is a require­ment for the full use of the unit in this type of oper­a­tion”, explains Force Com­man­der Jan Thörn­qvist.

Press release