By some accounts, upward of 30 warships now patrol the Gulf of Aden, conducting anti-piracy operations under various task forces and flags. Typically, between five and ten U.S. Navy warships are supporting the effort, officials claim. While a small anti-piracy coalition task force directed from the U.S.-led maritime headquarters in Bahrain has plied these waters for years, the brunt of the anti-piracy forces arrived in early 2009 after several high-profile vessel seizures. To date, assessments on the effectiveness of the effort are mixed, though in general it has been a localized success. The transit corridor and escort schema have worked well, and merchant ships seem to be closely following prudent ship-security practices; fewer attacks in the region resulted in ship seizures over the past year.
How Does this End?
Doing something, anything, that seems positive—while not really addressing the problem at all—seems to be the modus operandi of the multinational maritime anti-piracy elements in the Gulf of Aden. But as the months drag on without a concrete impact on regional piracy, hard questions need to be asked.
By Commander John Patch, U.S. Navy (Retired)