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A Danish ship sinks a mothership and lets the pirates slip away. Questions

(BRUSSELS2) The Danish NATO ship Absalon sank a pirate mothership on Sunday, NATO HQ in Northwood announced. The action would have taken place near the northern coast of Somalia. Officially no news from the pirates. Actually, " they fled on a skiff “, an officer explained to me. And the Danes did not go looking for them. “ That's not the mission. We have a deterrent action. But the arrest and prosecution of suspects depends on national rules ". Denmark has a rule not to arrest pirates (1). Unless another State requests them: this happened only once with the Netherlands (2). And NATO does not have the capacity, unlike the EU, to make agreements.

AbsalonForcesSpeciales@Dk100102The destruction of a mothership is a certain outcome – it prevents pirates from operating far from shore and undermines their operational capacity. However, three questions can be asked.

What proof did we have that they were pirates? Apparently, there was no connection with an attack already carried out or in progress. “ We assumed he could attack based on the evidence we found on board. ". Was on board, all the usual piracy paraphernalia (gasoline, ladders, etc.) » a NATO officer confirmed to me.

What about the owner of the dhow? Usually, pirates use captured boats as mother ships: Pakistani, Indian or Yemeni dhows in general, sometimes larger boats. The multinational forces in the area reported that the Asian Glory as well as the MV Win Far had been used for this purpose. We can therefore assume that this mother ship is not the property of pirates (like the small locally made skiffs). In this case, has the owner been located? Was he warned or consented to the destruction? Will he be compensated for the loss of this ship and by whom? There is no answer to this question. But if my information is correct, according to international law of the sea, it would be up to the Kingdom of Denmark to compensate the owner if he comes forward

• What is the purpose of NATO’s “Ocean Shield” mission? We can really ask ourselves the question. In the area, we already have two very active “Western” coalitions: CTF 151 formed around American forces (with, depending on the case, Turks, Pakistanis, etc.) and the EU EUNAVFOR Atalanta mission (also with Norwegians and Croats who are members of NATO and not members of the EU). NATO’s “Ocean Shield” mission only brings together the minimum: the Dane Absalom, the American USS Boone and the British Chatham. Instead of duplicating, it would be more useful for its ships to reinforce one or other of the coalitions present. This would be more logical from the point of view of effectiveness… unless it is not military effectiveness which guides the mission but rather “media” necessity.


(1) The Danes don't stop pirates, they save them...
(2) Dutch ask Danes to extradite “their” pirates ...

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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