A Dutch sailor watches for suspected pirates off the coast of Mogadishu, Somalia, as part of the EU's Operation Atalanta. The EU is considering helping Somalia establish it own coast guard. (Simon Maina / Agence France-Presse)
BRUSSELS — The European Union wants to help Somalia establish a coast guard service to combat piracy in the Horn of Africa.
The possibility of a Somali coast guard was discussed during a a press conference by Etienne de Poncins, head of the EU’s regional maritime capacity-building mission, known as EUCAP Nestor.
“There is no coast guard in Somalia at all. There are the Puntland maritime police forces, but no national coast guard,” de Poncins said.
Options for a Somali coast guard will be discussed later this year during a strategic review of the maritime training mission to the Horn of Africa and the western Indian Ocean.
EUCAP Nestor’s primary mission is to provide training and advice for legal systems, but it can also supply training equipment, de Poncins said. Its main focus is Somalia, which de Poncins described as “the most important because it has the longest coastline and because many pirates come from Somali.”
EUCAP Nestor’s annual budget is €23 million (US $31 million), with “a few million euro available for equipment such as life jackets, night goggles, communications or health equipment, but not vessels,” he said. There are three EU advisers in legal teams drafting legislation to counter piracy who are well placed to identify needs, he said, after which EU funding programs will be launched.
The mission maintains close contact with the central federal government and the Somaliland and Puntland regional bodies. It has held a training seminar on anti-piracy legislation with prosecutors and judges in the capital of Puntland. Discussions are ongoing between the regional governments and central government about a Somali maritime strategy, which will also address the coast guard issue.
Currently, the oceans off the Horn of Africa are being patroled by EU Naval Force Operation Atalanta. According to information provided by the Operation Atalanta headquarters in London, 27 countries contribute about 1,200 personnel to the mission.
The composition of the naval force changes constantly due to the frequent rotation of units. Typically, there are four to seven surface combat vessels and two to four maritime patrol aircraft in the region.