Counterpiracy operations off the coast of Somalia
The Netherlands Defence organisation is deploying several ships off the coast of Somalia as part of the NATO and EU counterpiracy missions. In December 2012, the government decided to extend the Dutch participation by 12 months.
From February to May 2013, the Netherlands will contribute to the EU mission Operation Atalanta with an air-defence and command frigate. After this, from August to December, the task will be performed with a Landing Platform Dock. It will be from this ship that the Netherlands exercises command of Operation Atalanta. From May to August, a multi-purpose frigate will be deployed as part of the NATO mission Operation Ocean Shield.
By carrying out patrols, the navy vessels of Operation Ocean Shield improve the security of sea lanes off the Somali coast and discourage and disrupt piracy at sea in the same area. Between 20.000 and 30.000 ships pass through the Gulf of Aden each year. Pirate groups operate in an area up to almost 750 kilometres off the Somali coast. The tasks of the flotilla are:
- protection of ships using a special corridor in the Gulf of Aden and patrol operations in the Somali Basin;
- escort of ships, including UN food transports by ship;
- combating piracy activities by locating suspected pirates and, where appropriate, taking them into custody.
In order to protect extremely large and very vulnerable Dutch sea transports against Somali pirates, the Defence organisation sometimes sends military security teams as escorts for part of the ships’ voyages. These so-called Vessel Protection Detachments (VPDs) consist of heavily armed marines.
At the end of 2008, the government decided to contribute to the Atalanta mission. As of April 2010, the Netherlands also became involved in Ocean Shield. Since then, the various air-defence and command frigates, supply ships and amphibious transport ships have been operating on a rotational basis in the waters off Somalia.
In 2012, as part of Operation Ocean Shield, the Royal Netherlands Navy provided the frigate HNLMS Evertsen, with a Lynx on-board helicopter (June and July), and the landing platform dock HNLMS Rotterdam, with 2 Cougar on-board helicopters and an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft (from August to December).
During the second half of 2012, a Royal Netherlands Navy submarine gathered intelligence for the same operation. The Netherlands also provided the commander for Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1) and part of the international staff of this NATO flotilla. During the periods in which SNMG1 was deployed as part of Operation Ocean Shield, the Dutch commander also had all the ships taking part in that operation under his command.
The frigate HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën took part in NATO’s Operation Allied Protector from March until the end of June 2009. The ship was part of one of NATO’s standing maritime groups, combating piracy off the coast of Somalia.
In 2008, Dutch frigates were also active in this area, with HNLMS Evertsen and HNLMS De Ruyter escorting various ships for the UN World Food Programme (WFP). The deployment of the naval vessels allowed the delivery of food and other aid to Somalia to be better safeguarded. Much of the population of this African country is dependent on food aid.
In 2012, an Autonomous Vessel Protection Detachment consisting of heavily armed marines was deployed for the protection of these ships.