Speaking at the ceremony, German Admiral Thomas Jugel said the focus of the mission had changed since it began in 2008. “The protection of humanitarian aid for Somalia is a very important task, and it’s good to know that this is the main focus of Operation Atalanta.”
The EU’s ships have been charged with protecting the United Nations World Food Programme supply ships, which are bringing aid to an estimated two million Somali refugees. More than a million of these are currently dependent on WFP aid.
“We all know the pictures of starving people from the news,” said Jugel, before adding that he hoped Operation Atalanta can help to ease that suffering. More than 500,000 tons of aid have been brought to Somalia in the past two and a half years.
Atalanta will be under German control until December, and Germany’s contribution will be substantially increased in that time – the frigate “Köln” will join the frigate “Bayern” in September, along with German Orion reconnaissance planes.
Commercial ships travelling through the Gulf of Aden, the most dangerous part of the route from Europe to Asia, can also request protection by Operation Atalanta.
The International Maritime Bureau reported 445 pirate attacks on commercial vessels in 2010 – mostly around the Horn of Africa – an increase on 2009, when there were 410. Only 74 were reported in 1992.