The European Union is concerned with the effect of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia. Somali piracy is characterised by criminals taking control of vessels transiting the High Risk Area off the coast of Somalia and extorting ransom money for the crew, the vessel and cargo - bearing all aspects of organised crime. Crews in the hand of pirates often face a prolonged period of captivity, the average being 145 days but some hostages have been held for as long as 940 days. Moreover, piracy impacts on international trade and maritime security and on the economic activities and security of countries in the region.
As a result, and as part of the Comprehensive Approach to Somalia, in December 2008 the EU launched the European Union Naval Force Somalia – Operation Atalanta (EU Naval Force - Somalia) within the framework of the European Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and in accordance with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) and International Law to contribute to the deterrence, prevention and repression of acts of piracy and armed robbery off the Somali coast.
Operation Atalanta is the European Union’s counter-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia and is mandated to conduct:
•The protection of vessels of the World Food Programme (WFP) delivering aid to displaced persons in Somalia and the protection of African Union Mission on Somalia (AMISOM) shipping.
•The deterrence, prevention and repression of acts of piracy and armed robbery off the Somali coast.
•The protection of vulnerable shipping off the Somali coast on a case by case basis.
•In addition, the EU Naval Force also contributes to the monitoring of fishing activities off the coast of Somalia.
On 23 March 2012 the Council of the EU extended the Mandate of Operation Atalanta until December 2014. At the same time, the Council also extended the Area of Operation to include Somali coastal territory and internal waters.
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