The EU announced on Tuesday, Oct. 28, that it would be sending at least four warships backed by aircraft to join the fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia.
At least four European warships, backed by aircraft, will patrol the waters off Somalia
A day after NATO warships began Operation Allied Provider, the alliance's anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia, the European Union announced that its flotilla will eventually take over duties from NATO ships in December and that it expected its air and sea operation to last a year.
The EU statement said that the bloc's new flotilla would include four to six ships backed by three or four maritime patrol aircraft, and would be led by British Vice Admiral Philip Jones. The EU mission is expected to get the final green light from the 27 EU states at a meeting of foreign ministers next month.
The plan may face some low-key opposition from some member states who claim the EU mission is an unnecessary one due to the current NATO deployment and who believe the aggressive support for the mission by the French EU presidency masks France's desire for a stronger European military profile.
EU force to coordinate international anti-piracy efforts
A total of 10 EU nations have agreed to contribute to the mission. Several EU ships are already taking part in the NATO operation. Two French frigates, a Dutch warship and a Spanish aircraft have also been involved in anti-piracy duties. The EU said the force could include some of the European ships which are already taking part in the NATO anti-piracy operation.
The EU mission would also take on responsibility for coordinating efforts with third-country warships, including from Russia, Asia and the Gulf states to avoid duplication of efforts, the officials said.
Pirates have been causing havoc in the Indian Ocean
Piracy is rife and well organized in the region where Somalia's north-eastern tip juts into the Indian Ocean, preying on a key maritime route leading to the Suez Canal. An estimated 30 percent of the world's oil passes through the territory. Sixty ships have been seized this year alone and Somali pirates are currently holding 13 vessels captive with more than 200 sailors.
The pirates operate high-powered speedboats and are heavily armed, sometimes holding ships for weeks until they are released for large ransoms paid by governments or owners.