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Somalia: Pirates

Volume 481: debated on Thursday 23 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what reports he has received of the recent capture of a Ukrainian ship by pirates in Somali waters; what response he has made to these reports; and if he will make a statement. (225963)

We are aware that the MV Faina has been hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia carrying a cargo of weapons. There is no direct UK interest in this ship; it is Belize flagged, Ukrainian, Latvian and Russian crewed with a Ukrainian cargo. It is being monitored by the US Navy who are keeping us informed. No Royal Navy units are involved in the monitoring of the vessel but we are engaged in counter-piracy more generally in the region.

The Government's stance on piracy has recently been reviewed. This has resulted in a move to a more proactive posture whereby Royal Navy (RN) units in the region will actively seek out pirates, and we have issued them with more robust guidance to deal with any pirates encountered. The RN will contribute to counter-piracy operations through three international efforts:

The UK is already engaged in efforts to combat acts of piracy off Somalia, through the Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, which has established a Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) in the Gulf of Aden. CTF 150 units in this area, including RN vessels, are actively conducting operations to counter destabilising activities primarily aimed at deterring and disrupting acts of piracy;

Standing NATO Maritime Group 2, including attached RN units, will also be deploying to the region with a mandate which allows them to conduct counter-piracy operations from mid-October. NATO is considering the ways in which this mandate can be implemented including the escorting of World Food Programme shipping into port in Mogadishu; and

We have also supported EU planning for a counter-piracy naval operation off the coast of Somalia, and on 14 October the EU Political and Security Committee decided to accept the offer made by the UK to provide the Operation Commander (Rear Admiral Phil Jones) and the Operation HQ (the Multinational Headquarters at Northwood). A formal decision from the EU member states to allow planning for the operation to proceed to the next stage is expected in the coming days. The UK offer is subject to sufficient forces being generated for an operation likely to begin in December.