Denmark to send frigate to protect shipping in the Gulf of Guinea

The Danish Parliament on Tuesday May 25th approved plans to send a naval warship to boost maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.

Later this year the frigate Esbern Snare will head to the Gulf of Guinea to contribute to international efforts to curb rampant piracy.

However, diplomatic problems still remain in the region, with the territorial waters of many countries abutting the international waters of the Gulf of Guinea, and with some of these countries keen to retain dominion over their own waters.

The 137.6-meter Absalon-class frigate HDMS Esbern Snare will initially be deployed in the Gulf’s international waters from November through March to help deter piracy and escort Danish and international merchant shipping in the area. The warship will carry approximately 175 Danish Armed Forces personnel as well as a Seahawk helicopter, which, if necessary, could deploy special operation forces to carry out rescue missions on hijacked ships.

Denmark said that on average 30 to 40 Danish operated ships sailed through the Gulf of Guinea every day, carrying about $1.6bn in goods annually.

Last year more than 120 crew were kidnapped from ships in the Gulf, making up 95% of crew numbers kidnapped globally.

Trine Bramsen, Danish Minister of Defence, said that “in such a situation we cannot and shall not just watch. We must stand up for the right to free navigation. The Danish Navy has previously proved strong and important in the combating of the pirates. However, if we are really going to get the security under control in the Gulf of Guinea an international military presence is necessary. From the Danish side we try to have more countries taking a responsibility.”

BIMCO, which has advocated for collaboration between Nigerian law enforcement and international navies for years, welcomed the move.

Jakob P Larsen, BIMCO head of maritime safety and security, said that “while it is understandable that Nigeria does not want foreign navies in their territorial waters, we hope that Ambassador Horslund will be able to garner broad support for an antipiracy operation as mandated by the UNCLOS convention, i.e. in international waters just outside Nigeria’s 12 nautical mile limit”.

Larsen said that it was “time for the international community to live up to the aspirations of the UNCLOS convention and suppress the piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, which affects seafarers and companies from all over the world. International navies is an indispensable addition to regional efforts such as Nigeria’s newly acquired Deep Blue capabilities which we hope will reach full operational capability soon”.