France ‘will not abandon’ Indian Ocean security

Stephen Spark

Even after the expiry of the European Union’s Operation Atalanta mandate in 2016, France will continue the fight against piracy and other maritime crime in the western Indian Ocean, it has been confirmed.

Speaking after this week’s African Union (AU) meeting on maritime security in Beau Vallon, Seychelles, France’s ambassador to Seychelles, Véronique Roger-Lacan, said that her country would maintain its presence in the area.

France’s Forces Armées de la Zone Sud de l’Océan Indien (FAZSOI) is based in Réunion, and because of the island’s status as a French overseas department and region, France is a member of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC). The commission’s anti-piracy unit is based next to the Regional Fusion and Law Enforcement Centre for Safety and Security at Sea (Reflecs3) in Victoria, Seychelles.

Quoted in Seychelles Nation, Roger-Lacan said, “We are part of the IOC and it is out of the question that we abandon our responsibilities.”

The ambassador suggested that the reduction in piracy incidents means that more attention can now be paid to other types of maritime crime, such as drugs and arms smuggling, human trafficking and associated money laundering. She asked: “The question is, where are they, what are they, and are they going to start piracy?”

Roger-Lacan said that the AU meeting discussed plans for a new operations control and information exchange centre in the southern Indian Ocean. This will be in addition to the existing Djibouti training facility and maritime information-sharing centres in Sana’a (Yemen), Mombasa (Kenya) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania).

The EU (through EUCAP Nestor) and the US are continuing to boost regional states’ ability to tackle piracy and maritime crime. In Port Victoria, EU Navfor ocean patrol vessel ESPS Rayo has just completed training members of the Seychelles Marine Police Patrol Unit in assault procedures and techniques.

Seventy members of the Seychelles Coast Guard and patrol ships Constant and Andromanche took part in Cutlass Express 2015, an eight-day US Africom-funded regional maritime security exercise. Quoted by Seychelles News Agency, SCG commanding officer Lt Col Simon Dine said, “The first [scenario] tested the participants’ ability to deal with a vessel that had been hijacked by pirates and this was handled well. We also had scenarios that involved fisheries protection and another involving illicit drugs trafficking.”


Maritime Security News:
Things are going to be interesting in the IOR come mid-December 2016. As NATO’s and EUNAVFOR’s deadlines approach, how many other countries will pledge to maintain a naval deployment in the region to combat piracy? The military continue to state that piracy is merely suppressed, but the bean counters would really like to cut that naval expense out of the equation. Certainly, Russia and China will keep a naval presence there and the Combined Maritime Forces aren’t likely to vanish, given their broader remit. Likewise, the US Navy, although their focus is likely to remain in the Persian Gulf. Iran, meanwhile, will continue to send a handful of ships to the Gulf and battle pirate hordes in incidents which will never be verified elsewhere.…

The maritime security industry, meanwhile, needs to seriously look at contingency plans for future business, because when Operation Ocean Shield and Operation Atalanta end, ship owners are going to take an even harder look at their bottom line. The one question they’ll be asking PMSCs? “If it’s safe enough for the navies to pull out, why do we need armed guards?”


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