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Somalia: Piracy

Volume 474: debated on Thursday 24 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reasons no British naval vessels intervened to prevent the hijacking of the ice tug Svitzer Korsakov off the coast of Somalia on 1 February 2008; what the rules of engagement are for British and NATO ships in such circumstances; and if he will make a statement. (200837)

In line with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS Article 100), the Royal Navy may come to the aid of vessels under attack by pirates in international waters. No Royal Navy vessels were in the vicinity of the Svitzer Korsakov at the time of its seizure. A warship was subsequently despatched to the area, ready to assist if required. In the event, British military intervention was not necessary.

In circumstances of this kind, UK Service personnel are permitted to use reasonable force in self defence, or defence of others in accordance with our UK domestic law. It would not be appropriate for me to comment upon the rules of engagement of other nations.