Following the overthrow of the Barre regime in 1991, a civil war broke out in Somalia and political chaos prevailed in the country. The various clans issued illegal fishing licenses, resulting to the accumulation of foreign countries fishing fleets which systematically impoverished the natural resources of the country. The uncontrolled fishing activities prohibited the Somali themselves from fishing, and as a result they were reduced to sheer poverty, facing survival problems, and , on the other hand piracy made its appearance off the Somali coast.
Between 2000-2004, 350-450 piracy incidents were recorded at an international level. This activity was reduced by 50% between 2005-2007, however, half of them were recorded off the coast of Nigeria and Somalia. In 2008, there was an exceptional rise in the piracy incidents (40% of the 293 attacks worldwide concerned ships off the Somali coast), where 42 ships were hijacked during 111 attacks. Ransom paid amounted to 30 million dollars. In late December 2008, as a result of the presence of naval multinational forces in the area, ship highjacking decreased while piracy incidents increased. Since operations started, 464 pirates were arrested and 229 of them were disarmed and set free, while the rest of them were handed over to the authorities. Moreover, 10 pirates lost their lives.
In this framework the EU decided to launch Operation ‘ATALANTA’ which constitutes the first EU – led naval operation, in conformity with the UN SC 1846 and 1851 Resolutions on fighting piracy off the Somali coast, which was initially planned for one year (December 2008- December 2009) and extended for one more year (December 2009-December 2010). The mission of the Operation ‘ATALANTA’ is as follows :
a. Escorting and protecting the cargo of ships of the UN World Food Programme delivering food aid to Somalia.
b. Protecting “ merchant ships vulnerable to attack” in high risk piracy areas.
c. Deterring and repressing acts of piracy in the broader area of Aden Gulf and off the Somali coast.
The operation is conducted by a naval force (“EU NAVFOR”), consisting of 10-13 ships from various EU countries, according to the regulations of the International Law and the relevant internal laws of each EU member-state. Northwood British HQ has been selected as Operational HQ, and a Logistics Base has been established in Djibouti, aiming to maximize the utilisation of the existing infrastructure. During the 1st semester of 2009, 130 piracy attacks were recorded, which led to 32 ship seizures, while ransom amounting to 43 million dollars was paid to release 23 ships.
Greece assumed the command of the Force for the 1st quarter of 2009 and handed it over to Spain on April 6th 2009. Our country, having assumed the Force Command, participated in the operation during the A’ quarter (Dec 08- Apr 09), with the following assets and personnel:
1 Frigate with an organic helicopter (Frigate “Psara”)
10 Staff Officers at the Commander’s Staff
3 Staff Officers at the operational headquarters in the UK
9 Staff Officers at the Logistics base