|Two Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIB's) on board the HNLMS Evertsen conduct a Maritime Situational Awareness patrol.
"They are fishermen. Friendly people, nice conversation and useful information”, is the short debrief on deck after the two Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIB's) have been hoisted on board of HNLMS Evertsen again. Both boats just conducted a so called Maritime Situational Awareness patrol, a visit to a dhow or a skiff to share information.
Yesterday HNLMS Evertsen patrolled close to the coast of Somalia. This kind of patrol aims for three things. Firstly, to be able to distinguish pirates from the local population, you must be aware of the patterns of life in a coastal area. As going ashore is not an option, the people that work in the coastal waters but live onshore form a very welcome source of information; they know what goes around, they can tell where the fishing areas are, where the dhows come from and where they are heading to.
Especially now this is crucial information. The current northeast monsoon makes it hard for the pirates to go to sea. It is expected that the pirates will lie low on land. Their behaviour is likely to differ from the local population. Therefore a better understanding of the coastal patterns will lead to a better ability to be distinguish between those who mean well and those who mean bad. A second aim is to deter by showing a visible presence along the coast. Finally, the MSA not only ask for information, they also provide the fishermen with relevant information: why do navies patrol here, how can they be contacted in case of incidents and why piracy is also harmful to local communities.
"I can't emphasize enough the importance of these MSA patrols”, says commodore Ben Bekkering, commander of the NATO counterpiracy mission Ocean Shield. "Together with other opportunities to share information, we built our mutual understanding, we learn to distinguish between the suspicious and the unsuspicious, we built trust and we also see, albeit modestly, another face of Somalia. All these elements combined, help us to counter piracy even more effectively.”