NATO hangs it up on Blackbeard

NATO’s last counter-piracy surveillance aircraft is flying her final mission, as part of the now-shuttered Operation Ocean Shield. The Royal Danish Air Force crew a Boeing Maritime Surveillance Aircraft, a modified Bombardier Challenger 604, and talks about how much the coast of Somalia has changed since the height of pirate activity in the Horn of Africa.

The operation, which began in 2009 as part of a broader international effort to crack down on Somali-based pirates who had caused havoc with world shipping, was conducted alongside Operation Atalanta— the EU operation in the area which current have a frigate each from Holland and Spain supported by a German P-3– and the 25-nation Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, both of which are on-going.

At the height of piracy in January 2011 over 700 hostages and 32 vessels were being held by Somali pirates, with huge ransoms demanded for their release.  Today, no vessels or hostages are being held by Somali pirates. The most recent pirate incident occurred on 22 October 2016, when a chemical tanker, CPO Korea, was attacked by six armed men 330 nautical miles off the east coast of Somalia.

“The global security environment has changed dramatically in the last few years and NATO navies have adapted with it,” NATO spokesman Dylan White said in a statement. “NATO has increased maritime patrols in the Baltic and Black Seas. We are also working to help counter human smuggling in the Mediterranean.”

As for the EU operation, on Friday 25 November 2016, the European Council extended Operation Atalanta’s mandate to deter, disrupt and repress acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia, until 31 December 2018.

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