Rear Admiral Duncan Potts, Atalanta Operation Commander. (Photo: eunavfor.eu/Opagac/FIS)
Naval presence expansion on vessels fishing in Indian Ocean assessed
Wednesday, November 30, 2011, 23:00 (GMT + 9)
The Ministers of Defence of the 27 Member States of the European Union (EU) have started talks in Brussels to try to solve the shortage of warships in the Atalanta mission to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean.
Some EU authorities intend to generalize the idea of taking military personnel onboard merchant ships and fishing vessels travelling off the coast of Somalia.
It is expected that later this year the mission has three ships in the area and that it has two boats at the beginning of 2012.
The ministers of the 27 countries also hope to reach an agreement to extend the mission’s term of office until the end of 2014.
Meanwhile, the commander of Atalanta, Duncan Potts, proposed to authorize the embarkation of "between 10 and 12" members of the military force on the ships of the World Food Programme, which the mission is escorting and on the fishing vessels for "efficiency gains" against pirates, the newspaper La Opinion reported.
"This is already being done. Now the idea is to expand it," said Potts.
Meanwhile, Hakan Syren, president of the EU Military Committee, warned last week that the lack of ships "is a problem."
He also warned that the Atalanta mission "has the minimum level" of ships, a "red line" that varies throughout the year from four to six ships, the agency EFE reported.
Currently, the governments of France and of Italy allow the embarkation of military personnel.
At the meeting held today in Brussels the European countries will also discuss the details of the operation to be launched as part of the Community Strategy for the Horn of Africa. The idea is to strengthen the maritime capabilities of the countries of the region -- Kenya, the Seychelles and Yemen -- so that each country can "carry out patrols in its territorial waters."
This mission would have a "civilian" status but with a "military component" to ensure the training of Coast Guard forces in the nations of the zone.
Community sources admitted that Europe has problems equipping their missions with sufficient capabilities due to the severe economic situation and to budget cuts.
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By Analia Murias