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Piracy Fight Changing Shape as Somali Pirates Extend Reach


One of the main priorities for the military and those working within the maritime industry in Asia is combating piracy.

Figures from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) show that pirate attacks are in fact decreasing in the Gulf of Aden thanks to military surveillance operations, such as those undertaken by NATO.

There were 17 incidents in the first quarter of 2010, in comparison to 41 which occurred during the same period in 2009.

However, the IMB’s report also revealed that Somali pirates are extending their reach outside of the Gulf of Aden and are now carrying out attacks off the coast of Kenya, Tanzania, the Seychelles, Madagascar and Oman.

This highlights the need for increasing cohesion among Asian and African countries in the areas of coastal military surveillance and maritime domain awareness.

James Michel, president of the Seychelles, which recently received the help of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the fight, said: “We need to prepare ourselves in the long term to fight piracy as the Somali mainland problem and piracy will not be solved soon.”

Cross-country Co operation and military surveillanceThe agreement between the Seychelles and the UAE, which encompassed military surveillance and expertise,   is just one of many which have been formed over recent times to deal with regional security issues.

Bi-lateral discussions between India and Oman earlier this year ended in an agreement to increase cooperation on the issues of maritime security and military surveillance in the region.

Defense minister Shri AK Antony said that in the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008, maritime security has become a major issue for India. The country has also been involved in anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden, stationing six ships in the region since October 2008.

Antony said: “We are cooperating with other navies deployed in this area by way of information sharing and have been participating in the Shared Awareness and De-Cofliction [SHADE] Meetings since April 2009.”

Some 23 nations attended the SHADE meetings in 2009 in Manama, Bahrain to discuss cohesion within the field of counter piracy and maritime military surveillance.

Further cooperation efforts in the region include the Southeast Asia Cooperation Against Terrorism exercise. This year the event will be held at the Changi Naval Base, where nations will discuss maritime information sharing and the coordination of maritime security responses, through drills based around tracking ships and simulations for boarding ships expected of illegal activities.

Technological DevelopmentsIn addition to stepping up their cooperation efforts in a bid to combat piracy, Asian and Indian Ocean nations are also investing in new coastal and military surveillance technology and services.

The government of Equatorial Guinea recently signed a deal with private security firm Military Professional Resources Initiative (MPRI) to implement a Maritime Security Enhancement Program (MSEP).

Plans are for the MSEP to have a surveillance site network and operations centres in Equatorial Guinea within three years, with the aim of protecting those working in the Gulf of Guinea, which has been the focus of attacks in recent years due to its oil reserves.

Jim Jackson, general manager for MPRI’s International Group, said that the deal creates a “thoughtful approach toward establishing long-term stability for the entire region.”

Defence company BAE systems has also been addressing the threats faced in shallow coastal waters. In 2009 the company released the unmanned baby sub to search for explosive mines at shallow depths, to deal with the “increasing need for a threat detection capability in confined coastal areas.”

The firm has also been involved in developing the mission computer system for the P-8I aircraft for the Indian Navy.  Once delivered, the aircraft will be used in anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue, and long-range intelligence, military surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance operations.

Donna Linke-Klein, director of mission computers and antenna solutions for BAE Systems, said: “Maritime surveillance and patrol is becoming more and more important to effective defense. The P-8I mission computer system provides superior interoperability for the future battle space.”

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