TF 508 has sought ways to engage with the coastal villages. Starting with visits to fishing skiffs and trading dhows, meetings with elders quickly followed. Those village elders explained us about the shore side view on piracy. About the fact that piracy has made things difficult. The basic needs the villages have. The lack of aid and assistance, the lack of basic healthcare. They also explained the lack of knowledge of the tasks and missions of the warships in front of their coast. Were they there to help, or to prevent illegal fishing, as the original pirates would always claim?
In further increasing the pressure on the pirates, the villages and their leaders can become valuable allies. By conducting regular visits, meeting the elders and providing small scale medical assistance, we gain trust, we exchange information and we reassure the people that together we must counter piracy. Now we have to see if we can make this an effective counter piracy measure, by preventing pirates to go to sea and when they do, to catch them well before they can become a danger. To safeguard international shipping, but also ensure safe regional and local trade and fishing. Not just today or tomorrow, but also for the longer term.
Commodore Ben Bekkering,
Commander, NATO Task Force 508
Operation Ocean Shield
(Defensie weblog, 16 september 2012)