EU faces warship shortage for Somali piracy mission

Swedish General Hakan Syren, chairman of the EU Military Committee

From David Brunnstrom, Reuters:  The European Union is short of warships for its counter-piracy mission off Somalia and is unlikely the fill the gap until March given economic constraints, the top EU military officer said on Tuesday.

Swedish General Hakan Syren, chairman of the EU Military Committee, said the shortage would be a "problem", without going into further details.

An EU military official later played down the challenge, saying the shortfall would coincide with a period when pirate attacks normally declined and the bloc would be able to sustain the mission. . . .

Pirates operating from the Somali coast have raked in millions of dollars in ransoms from hijacking ships and a total of 243 hostages and 10 vessels are currently being held, according to figures from EU Navfor, the EU’s anti-piracy task force. . . .

Syren said the EU operation, codenamed Atalanta, had a normal minimum force requirement of four to six warships, depending on the time of the year, and this would not be met in the period from December until March.

"The … commander has a minimum level of both maritime patrol aircraft and ships; and during quite a limited time … the number of ships is below the red line," he told a news conference after a meeting of defence chiefs of the 27 EU states.

"It’s a problem. I am telling you the facts and it is really a problem … and we have faced this before," he said.  (photo: European Council)

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