The Turkish navy concluded its first ever official visit to the Maldives last week during a patrol of the Indian Ocean it is conducting as part of a NATO-led anti-piracy initiative to try and deter potential attacks in and around the region’s territorial waters.
A spokesperson said that the three day visit by the naval ship TCG Giresun to the Maldives, which concluded on May 3, was not linked to any specific threat or incident of piracy within the country’s territorial waters.
He said it was instead linked to a wider NATO programme targeting concerns about pirate attacks spreading beyond the horn of Africa into territories around the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
“We are trying to promote understanding to fight piracy, so one way to do this is to visit ports like Male’,” said the spokesperson. “The attacks of the pirates have widened into the Indian Ocean with one of the last incidents occurring approximately 250 nautical miles away from the shores of Male’, so NATO has widened the number of ports we are to visit to include Indian Ocean destinations like Mumbai and Male’.
Experts suggest that a growing number of Somali pirates are moving deeper into the Indian Ocean as they come under increased pressure from international task-forces designed to try and limit piracy around the horn of Africa. As a result of this movement, maritime security has become a notable security concern for the Maldives, even around the country’s secluded resort properties.
In March this year, a family were suspected of being kidnapped by Somali pirates after having set sail from the Maldives towards the Arabian sea, although the kidnapping was confirmed by security officials to have occurred outside of Maldivian waters.
Major Abdul Raheem of the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) said at the time that security officials in the country had not received any information concerning the kidnappings or any other kind of “terrorist activities” occurring recently within the territorial waters of the Maldives.
Raheem added that Maldivian authorities would not therefore be reviewing maritime security measures or safety advice for sailing sailing in and out of the country on top of measures and international cooperation already in place during the alleged kidnappings.
The Turkish navy says that during 2011 alone, it plans to send between three to four frigates to patrol the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea as part of its commitments to try and protect Turkish and international merchant vessels from potential pirate attacks.
“We plan to conduct operations to protect merchant vessels,” said a spokesperson for the TCG Giresun. “During this deployment we will visit Aksaz Aqaba, Jidde, Al Hudeyde, Doha, Dubai, Mascat, Karachi and Mumbai.”
In previous patrols conducted by the TCG Giresun in the Gulf of Aden, the Turkish navy spokesperson claimed that the ship’s crew had apprehended 14 suspected pirates and a stash of weapons on a Yemeni dhow vessel along with seven local fishermen that were also being held on the ship.
In instances where suspected pirates were caught, the navy spokesperson said that the Turkish authorities were not able to try or incarcerate any of the individuals themselves.
“They are not our captives as we are operating under United Nations resolutions and currently there is not an established court to judge [alleged] pirates that have been captured. So we attempt to disrupt and deter them [from piracy], we take their weapons and drop the equipment into the sea,” he said.
“We take all their equipments and then return [the suspects] to the Somali coast. Some countries have special [legislative] agreements, such as Kenya and the Seychelles. These agreements relate only between [these nations] and not internationally, so they capture the alleged pirates and then take them to Kenya or to the Seychelles to be judged.”
The spokesperson claimed that a present a number of suspected pirates from Somalia were currently being returned to their native coast.
To try and counteract the challenges of detaining suspected pirates, the UN security council last month voted in favour of forming an international court – supported by a host of potential new laws – that would focus specifically on working to combat the spread of piracy.