Coalition of the Willing

"It is particularly ironic that many of the nations that are presently contributing warships to the anti-piracy flotillas patrolling, or set to patrol, the waters off the Horn of Africa, are themselves directly linked to the foreign fishing vessels that are busily plundering Somalia's offshore resources," Clive Schofield, University of Wollongong, and author of Plundered Waters: Somalia's Maritime Resource Insecurity 2009.
Fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia is now big business, private security companies and international military forces are all working in the Horn of Africa to combat piracy – that is the Somali 'pirates'. They do not focus on the international shipping fleets poaching the Somalian fish or the international ships that are dumping toxic waste; they focus on the local Somalian people.

Since 2008 more than 30 countries have sent navies to the Gulf of Aden. Most of the G20 countries are active in the area. A large number of international organisations are also suddenly involved in the fight; before piracy off the coast of Somalia became popular, only the IMO and Interpol had policy relating to piracy. Now even the World Bank does. Regional and state organisations such as the EU, NATO, the Arab League and the African Union also have policy or play active roles in the area.

An unprecedented number of Resolutions has been passed by The United Nations Security Council authorising military operations in the area, the most recent in November 2011. As pointed out by Abukar Arman, Somali's Special Envoy to the USA in May 2011, the UN would be better spent "spearheading the establishment of maritime regimes, banning over-fishing and the dumping of chemical waste and imposing hefty fines on perpetrators (and perhaps set up a fund to help this abused nation)..."

Currently there are three official campaigns, involving 60 countries, operating in the Gulf:
  • Operation Atalanta
  • CTF 151
  • Operation Ocean Shield (further information about all three campaigns can be found below)
There is also a fourth 'group' entitled 'Independent Navies' working alongside the official campaigns; these countries include China, India, Iran, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan. Many of these 'Independent Navies' are actually part of IONS: the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium. IONS is composed of 35 countries, including Australia, Egypt, France, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Mozambique, Myanmar, Singapore, South Africa, Tanzania, the UAE, and Yemen. IONS met in April 2012 to strengthen coordinated action against Somali 'pirates'.

Together, all these campaigns and countries, make an interesting political and historical picture - it is here off the coast of Somalia that NATO ships patrol alongside Iranian ships, that Taiwanese and Chinese ships patrol together. And as the USA builds up its navy and military presence in the Pacific and the EU promises to help with mediation in the South China Sea dispute, all countries involved in that dispute patrol alongside each other - NATO, the EU, Chinese, Indian, Malaysian and Russian ships. (It is also interesting that this is the first time since the 15th Century that China has deployed ships outside of the Asia-Pacific region and Japan had to debate changes to its Constitution before it could send troops.) There is a lot happening in the seas around Somalia.

Warships in the Horn of Africa on 11 May 2012:
China, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, and the USA.

Coordinating activities between the official campaigns, the independent navies and the private organisations are two main groups SHADE (Shared Awareness and Deconfliction) and the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPS). The Djibouti Code of Conduct established by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in 2009 is also one of the UN's central coordinating tools to fight 'piracy'.

The Djibouti Code of Conduct (France, Mozambique & South Africa are also eligible to sign but have not as of Nov. 2011)
In November 2011 ReCAAP (The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia) and the Djibouti Code of Conduct countries agreed upon and signed a set of standard operating procedures (SOP) for communicating and exchanging piracy related information.

Towards the end of 2011, many of the countries and organisations began to talk about allowing excursions on Somali land to hunt 'pirates'. It was reported as if it was a completely new initiative,  however what it is doing is legallising current practise.

In March 2012 the EU confirmed that Atalanta could now hunt pirates on the land. Although Austria, Spain and Germany had doubts about this move, in May 2012 the mandate was given for Atalanta to attack alleged pirate basis on the Somalia coastline. However, at this stage attacks are to be limited only to sea and air attacks - no soldier is allowed to set foot on Somalia.

In April 2012,  the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) met in South Africa and confirmed that they, too, will fight piracy on both the land and the oceans. Members, under the mandate of the UN, will 'neutralise the camps and hideouts of the pirates in Somalia'.

The network of countries and organisations involved in the campaign against piracy off the coast of Somalia is not only vast but interesting.

"I hope that the military vessels [involved in Operation Atalanta] will also combat the international vessels that are fishing illegally in our waters," Prime Minister Sharmarke, May 2009.
Established in December 2008, the EU NAVFOR Operation Atalanta (TF465) is the first joint European naval force deployment and involves numerous European countries. Switzerland, however, refused to participate on the basis that the mission was 'a war without declaration'. The Headquaters of the mission are at the Northwood Operation Headquarters, England, and from August until December 2011, Germany was in charge the mission; as from the first week of December Spain has replaced Germany.
Control Room, Greek frigate in Atalanta

CTF 151
Established in January 2009, CTF 151 (Combined Task Force 151) is a taskforce that grew out of CTF 150, a group established to fight 'the war on terror' after September 11, 2001.
CTF 151 consists of 25 different countries, including: the USA, South Korea, Turkey, Singapore, the U.K. and Pakistan, and is co-ordinated by the Combined Maritime Force (CMF) with Headquarters in Bahrain. Leadership is rotated between the participating countries; currently it is led by a New Zealander.
CTF's mission is to 'disrupt piracy and armed robbery at sea and to engage with regional and other partners to build capacity and improve relevant capabilities in order to protect global maritime commerce and secure freedom of navigation.'

Operation Ocean Shield (TF 508) was officially established in October 2009 but in reality began a year earlier with NATO providing escorts to UN World Food Programme vessels around the Horn of Africa.
Command of the Force periodically rotates amongst NATO nations. The Headquaters for Operation Oceanshield are also at the Maritime Component Command in Northwood, UK.
Capturing Pirate Skiffs