Food ships to Somalia receive NATO and Dutch protection

News and Press Release
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Rome, 10 November 2008 - The Netherlands and NATO have responded to an appeal from WFP for naval escorts to protect its ships carrying life-saving assistance from pirate attacks off Somalia. More than 2 million Somalis could go hungry without this protection.

On 26 October, the first two vessels loaded with a total of 18,500 metric tons of WFP food arrived safely in Mogadishu from the Kenyan port of Mombasa under the escort of the Dutch frigate HNLMS De Ruyter. HNLMS De Ruyter is dedicated to escorting WFP ships to Somalia into December.

On 28 October, the Greek frigate HS Themistokles - one of three NATO naval vessels in a NATO task force off Somalia charged with escorting WFP ships and other anti-piracy missions - escorted a ship loaded with 2,700 tons of WFP food to the beach port of Merka, 100 kilometres southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

The NATO and Dutch naval vessels are continuing their escort missions in November to Mogadishu and Merka.

Since the naval escort system began in November 2007, no pirate attacks have been launched against ships loaded with WFP food despite 2008 being the worst year ever for piracy off Somalia. There have been a total of 75 attacks on shipping so far this year including 30 hijackings, compared with 31 attacks in 2007, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

A total of 537 crew members have been taken hostage so far this year.