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NATO concludes successful counter-piracy mission

By The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

NATO formally ended its operation Ocean Shield in the waters off the coast of Somalia on Thursday (15 December 2016), bringing the curtain down on one of NATO’s most successful ever operations.

NATO ships and aircraft have patrolled the seas off the Horn of Africa since 2009 as part of a broad international effort – including the European Union’s Operation Atalanta – to combat maritime piracy. Ocean Shield has helped to significantly reduce piracy in the region – meaning NATO has been able to declare the mission has achieved its objectives.

At the height of the crisis, pirates were seizing dozens of ships each year, with a knock-on economic cost estimated to be in the billions of euros annually. Crews taken hostage were often held for months or years. Since May 2012, thanks to maritime patrols, armed guards aboard ships and a range of other defensive measures, not a single commercial vessel has been captured.

“Operation Ocean Shield has been a great success – making an essential contribution to combatting piracy in the seas of Somalia and therefore keeping one of the world’s most important waterways safe and secure,” said NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu. “While the operation officially concludes today, NATO will continue to keep a close eye on the situation in the region and stands ready to restart our patrols should they be needed.”

Ocean Shield has helped to prevent or disrupt hundreds of pirate attacks. Many pirates were detained during the mission and prosecuted by national authorities.