Whilst conducting EU counter-piracy patrols in the Horn of Africa, the Belgian EU Naval Force frigate, BNS Leopold I, has conducted friendly approaches on a dhow and several skiffs near the Somali coast.
The dhow was initially sighted by BNS Leopold I’s Alouette III helicopter during a reconnaissance flight along the Somali coast on 13 September. After making radio contact with the dhow, the frigate’s boarding party went to speak to the master. The master of the dhow explained that he and his crew were local fishermen and he was able to provide information about local maritime activity. He said that the presence of international warships made him feel more secure from pirate attack.
Later on the same day, several skiffs were spotted in close proximity to each other. BNS Leopold I’s boarding party was sent again to speak to the crews. By conducting the friendly approaches the Belgium Navy team was able to share information with the local fishermen, who were grateful and reported they had not seen any signs of piracy recently.
Friendly approaches like this increasemutual understanding between the EU Naval Forces and local seafarers. They are also very useful in analysing and understanding regional maritime activities and in identifying the local ‘pattern of life’.
Piracy incidents off the coast of Somalia have dropped significantly in recent years. In January 2011, 736 hostages were being held by pirates, today that figure is believed to be 37.