Frensh Navy to provide piracy protection for ships calling Somalia
A new security plan has been introduced to curb the piracy problem off Somalia. The French Navy took over the responsibility of escorting ships contracted by World Food Programme (WFP) to deliver relief supplies from the port of Mombasa, Kenya to Somalia. Some 80% of WFP’s food assistance for Somalia is transported by sea.
Before the French Navy took on this mission, WFP’s humanitarian activities had nearly ground to a halt as shipping companies that were transporting the relief supplies started to withdraw their ships after pirates targeted some of them. Apart from hijacking the vessels and detaining the crew, the pirates demanded ransoms running into hundreds of thousands of dollars. The increased piracy pushed insurance premiums to an all time high resulting in increased costs to shipping companies and higher costs to WFP in chartering ships. In 2005, an upsurge of piracy in Somali waters, including the hijacking of two ships contracted by WFP, forced the UN agency to suspend all deliveries by sea for some weeks.
The intervention of the French navy has reversed the situation. Shipping companies are now paying reduced insurance premiums due to reduced risks and costs of chartering ships for relief operations to Somalia coming down. Lieutenant commander Philippe Le Gac is the commanding officer of the French frigate which is among two French naval vessels involved in the mission, stated:
As a soldier, I am very happy to be involved in this humanitarian mission that has seen me and other French soldiers ensuring that the people of Somalia who urgently need relief supplies get it despite insecurity posed by pirates.
French Navy will continue with its mission until February when they are expected to hand over to the Danish Navy.