The European Union is concerned with the effect of Somali-based piracy and armed robbery at sea off the Horn of Africa and in the Western Indian Ocean. Somali-based piracy is characterised by criminals taking control of vessels transiting the High Risk Area in the Region and extorting ransom money for the crew, the vessel and cargo: this bears all the features of organised crime. Crews held hostage by pirates often face a prolonged period of captivity, the average being 5 months, although some hostages have been held for almost three years. Moreover, piracy impacts on international trade and maritime security and on the economic activities and security of countries in the region.

As a result, and as part of its Comprehensive Approach to Somalia, the EU launched the European Union Naval Force ATALANTA (EU NAVFOR) in December 2008 within the framework of the European Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and in accordance with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) and International Law.



Under EU Council Joint Action 851, which is based on various UN resolutions, Operation ATALANTA:

  • Protects vessels of the  World Food Programme (WFP), African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and other vulnerable shipping.
  • Deters and disrupts piracy and armed robbery at sea.
  • Monitors fishing activities off the coast of Somalia.
  • Supports other EU missions and international organisations working to strengthen maritime security and capacity in the region.

On 28 November 2016 the Council of the EU extended the Mandate of Operation ATALANTA until December 2018.

Swedish WFP - May 2010 (11)


Data collated since 2008 demonstrate that EU NAVFOR, in co-operation with her counter-piracy partners, has become highly effective in preventing attacks before they happen.

Taken together, intelligence-led operations, a robust and proactive stance, as well as the continued effort to impress upon the maritime industry and the merchant community the importance of self-protection measures, have decreased the success rate of those attacks which are mounted.

At the height of Somali piracy in January 2011, 736 hostages and 32 ships were being held by pirates. By October 2016 that number has dropped to no hostages and ships being held.

Since the launch of the Operation in 2008, EU NAVFOR – Operation ATALANTA has:

  • Had a 100% success rate in providing protection to WFP vessels delivering food / aid to the Somali people and to AMISOM shipments critical to the success of the African Union operation in Somalia.
  • Ensured the protection of other vulnerable shipping within the IRTC and the High Risk Area.
  • Contributed to the deterrence, prevention and repression of acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia.
  • Transferred suspected pirates to competent authorities with a view to their prosecution and conviction as a result of its close co-operation with regional governments such as those of The Republic of the Seychelles, Mauritius and Kenya.

Moreover, EU NAVFOR has conducted and supported numerous Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) rescue missions in the area, helping local, regional and international trading and fishing vessels in distress.

ACHIEVMENTS1_2_20100829 Eskort Victoria (21)