Rear Admiral Sinan Azmi Tosun, Commander SNMG-2, On Piracy (Part II)

Rear Admiral Sinan Azmi TOSUN (left), Commander of the NATO Counter Piracy Mission Operation Ocean Shield, with his Chinese counterpart Rear Admiral LI Shihong. Photo: Official NATO Photo

This must be the NATO-effect. Usually Turkish officers are not that much talkative to the press.

This is the second time within this month that Rear Admiral  Sinan Azmi Tosun, Commander SNMG2 talks to international press.

Mr. Guy Toremans from Jane’s Naval International interviewed Rear Admiral Sinan Azmi Tosun on piracy.

As the original article is behind a paywall, I am just quoting bits of it that I have found most interesting.

The most commonly used information-sharing platform among all players are the Mercury system, managed by the MSCHOA, and the NATO-wide network. In addition, units of the ‘Big Three’ task forces – NATO’s CTF 508, EU Naval Force (NAVFOR) Somalia and CTF 151 – the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and the Republic of Korea Navy also use the Centrix secure communication system, which is managed by the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) US Central Command (CENTCOM) in Bahrain.

 “Yet despite all these means of communication systems, we notice that some players do not use these means effectively and in a timely fashion, in particular when it comes to getting across classified information,” said Rear Adm Tosun.

“Due to the economic situation, most of the navies are under pressure because their governments have to find a balance between funding and ongoing commitments. This reflects in the force flow. So occasionally we face a shortage of units or see ships participating for only short periods which, to a certain degree, breaks up the continuity of our operations. The major challenge faced by NATO’s standing maritime forces may be that the alliance members could become reluctant to assign units to the task forces on a regular basis and this could possibly result in the shortage of units.

Rear Adm Tosun hopes to see more maritime patrol aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles being assigned to counter-piracy operations as these assets are essential to locate and track pirate action groups at sea. “Another nice thing to have would be an organic fleet oiler, preferably with a shipborne helicopter and a special operations forces team embarked and equipped with a Role 2 medical capability,” he said.

Having been identified by naval units, pirates generally attempt to flee to the territorial waters of nearby countries to hide among fishing vessels, where they know that naval forces are not authorised to operate. As such, the provision of support for local coastguards and navies, through regional maritime capacity building (RMCB) activities, is essential, as it is otherwise impossible to neutralise pirates, added Rear Adm Tosun. To this end, NATO has established contacts with regional authorities to identify potential areas of practical co-operation. Rear Adm Tosun pointed out that every opportunity is taken to exercise with local navies and coast guards.

Although the international maritime forces have succeeded in reducing the number of successful attacks in the Gulf of Aden and the Somali Basin, Rear Adm Tosun accepts that this addresses only a symptom and not the cause.

“Piracy can never be solved at sea; the final solution lies ashore,” he said. “The problem is that people become pirates because they see it as the only option to make their living. Therefore the international community should support Somalia to persuade young Somalis against setting out on these criminal activities and try to provide them with a good future by creating new employment areas.”

This is how I am interpreting what the Rear Admiral is saying is:

1) We need more commitment of necessary forces from our allies to police the seas infected with pirates.

2) We need the right tools for this job. Air assets can cover large parts of the ocean in a relative short time and arrive at  a ship under attack. Many times, the timely arrival of a  helicopter from a nearby warship prevented the pirates to high jack the merchant ship. Manned or unmanned air patrol systems are needed to obtain the over maritime picture.

3) We need large supply ships to act as a floating base to refuel warships and to carry special forces and medical teams needed when things go bad.

4) We need to build maritime cooperation along the nations in the region and help them to work together. NATO has a know-how over 60 years how different nations should together towards a common defense problem. The lessons learned by NATO countries during the last 60 years can be shared with the nations in Indian Ocean so that can work together against pirates.

5) We need to solve the piracy problem on the shore!

I think they are all valuable points and it would be a shame for everyone to ignore them.


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