News BlogWest Africa - SahelMissions Operationsmaritime piracy

A Danish frigate in the Gulf of Guinea in the fall

(B2) Denmark engages in coordinated maritime presences in West Africa. Objective: fight against local pirates and protect ships, especially Maersk Line container ships, the Danish maritime giant

The Absalon engaged in the permanent NATO maritime group (SNMG1) in 2020 (credit: NATO - Archives B2)

A Danish navy ship will be engaged in the Gulf of Guinea from November 2021 for a period of five months until March 2022, the Danish government announced on Tuesday (16 March). On board a SeaHawk helicopter and special forces from the naval task force, able to approach ships in a 'friendly' or more 'robust' way. The ship's mission is to fight against piracy, to provide support to merchant ships or to "escort" them, and if necessary to go to their aid or carry out rescues. NB: the name of the ship is not specified, but it could be the Absalon (L-16), engaged several times in the fight against piracy in the Indian Ocean within the framework of the operations of the NATO in 2008-2014 (read: A foiled attack in the Red Sea. Piracy in “active standby” mode?)

Don't just watch

« Maritime safety questioned. Pirates are responsible for several serious kidnappings in the region. This threatens the safety of Danish and foreign crews. In such a situation, we can and must not just watch Defense Minister Trine Bramsen said in a statement sent to B2. " We must defend the right to free navigation. An international military presence is needed. Denmark also wants to work so that “ more countries are taking responsibility ", In the region.

Within the framework of the coordinated maritime presences

The vessel will be under Danish command and will remain in international waters. His presence will be coordinate " with the others " allies and partners of Denmark in the region, specifies Copenhagen. This is the very application of the new European concept of coordinated maritime presences which brings together four countries in particular (France, Spain, Portugal and Italy). This is accompanied by cooperation with coastal states for help countries take responsibility for security themselves as Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod points out. It's about fighting both pirate attacks and causes of piracy ". ...

A vital interest for Denmark

The proposal still needs to be approved by the Folketing (Danish Parliament). Which shouldn't cause too many problems. The country has a strong maritime tradition. It is " the fifth largest maritime nation in the world even boasts the government. On average, " up to 40 Danish ships sail daily in the Gulf of Guinea. And that represents a commodity value of almost DKK 10 billion per year. " Our responsibility is engaged when the safety of our seafarers and the right to free navigation are threatened. says Jeppe Kofod.

Maersk's weight

With Maersk Line, Denmark has above all the leading shipping company and the largest container ship owner in the world. The simple turnover of the group represents approximately 13% of the gross domestic product of the country. A shipowner who has worked hard for this military presence in the Gulf. The Danes were also campaigning for more than just a coordinated presence, for an operation like the one mounted by the Europeans and NATO off Somalia in 2008 (EUNAVFOR Atalanta and Ocean Shield respectively).

A long-standing Danish commitment

This may seem somewhat paradoxical for a country that has an opt-out (derogation) from European security and defense policy. A certain continuity for a country which is a member of the European intervention initiative and has always responded when it comes to ensuring freedom of navigation. He thus committed himself to the maritime surveillance mission (EMASOH or Agenor) initiated by France to ensure the surveillance of the Strait of Hormuz and the Arabian-Persian Gulf (read: Denmark embarks on the Strait of Hormuz alongside the French). A special representative for maritime security, Ambassador Jens-Otto Horslund, was also appointed in January.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Read also: Maritime surveillance becomes a vector of European defense

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).