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Dutch submarine to help fight piracy

By Brian Walker, CNN
  • Netherlands to deploy sub to patrol off Somalia
  • Ship will be part of NATO's Ocean Shield anti-piracy mission
  • Sub will monitor pirate communications, defense minister says
  • Pirates
  • Somalia
  • Netherlands

(CNN) -- For the first time, a submarine will be combating the rising tide of piracy in the seas off the East African coast.

The Dutch navy is deploying the submarine in September, the Dutch defense minister announced on a visit to monitor operations off Somalia on Tuesday.

Eimert van Middelkoop said the vessel will primarily be used to monitor communications between pirate vessels and their warlord masters on shore while remaining undetected itself.

The ship will be part of NATO's Ocean Shield anti-piracy mission, aiming to keep the busy shipping channels there safe from attack.

The fleet has been successful in disrupting pirate operations off the East African coast, forcing marauding ships to attack farther out to sea.

The International Maritime Bureau, which monitors piracy, reported Monday that the overall number of attacks has dropped sharply in the first months of this year compared to a year ago. It warned, however, that the pirates are stretching their range up to 1,000 nautical miles out to sea in response to more international patrols close to shore.

The submarine is expected to help cover more area while keeping pirates unaware that they are being monitored.

The difficulty of patrolling the vast ocean is compounded by the fact that Somalia lacks a functioning government to bring the pirates to justice.

It's not only on the high seas where the Dutch are taking a lead role in other methods of combating the pirates, however.

Last week, a court in the Netherlands convicted five Somalis for attacking a Dutch-flagged ship last year and sentenced them to five years in prison. It was the first such trial and conviction in Europe since the NATO and EU missions began operations.