A decade ago, during the peak years of the Somali piracy crisis, the waters of the Arabian Gulf faced frequent threats from armed criminals at sea, who disrupted the economy by terrorizing shipping routes. But experts say regional action — with Saudi Arabia at the forefront — has meant crimes on the high seas have dipped to some of the lowest records in years.
A five-year stretch between 2007 and 2012 saw Somalia’s lawless coastline at the epicenter of global maritime crime. Numerous kidnappings and hijackings threatened vital maritime trade routes.
Every year, tens of thousands of vessels transit through the Gulf of Aden, which leads to the Suez Canal, amounting to roughly 10 percent of global trade flows.
Pirates terrorized vessels on some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, with almost daily incidents across the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, causing an $18 billion loss to the global economy, according to the World Bank.
In 2010 alone, there were 489 instances of piracy, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
Enter the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), an anti-piracy coalition of 33 nations from all over the world — including five Gulf states — in which Saudi Arabia is a key player.
Established some years prior, the CMF stepped up its operations following a massive global anti-piracy effort in 2008.
That year, the UN Security Council also urged countries to use “all necessary means” to defeat piracy, while encouraging them to patrol the Somali coastline, particularly the Gulf of Aden.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has played a huge part in three CMF task forces: Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, which conducts counterterrorism and maritime security operations in the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman; CTF 151, which conducts counterpiracy operations; and CTF 152, which conducts maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf.
Lt. Commander Ian Miller of CTF 152 said Saudi Arabia has been instrumental in tackling maritime crimes across the Arabian Gulf, while GCC countries have collectively taken a leadership role in investing in long-term, onshore solutions in order to permanently end piracy in the Horn of Africa.
“The GCC countries play a significant role in the CMF,” Miller told Arab News. The Saudi military has “supplied personnel and assets in all three task forces,” and has “commanded CTF 150 once and CTF 152 on two separate occasions,” he said.
This has led to “a number of notable successes,” particularly for CTF 150 operations, including “seizure and destruction of several thousand tons of hashish and heroin,” he added.
Source: Arab News
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