"The frigate will thus be leading the important task of combating pirate activity off the coast of the Horn of Africa", says Defence Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen.
NATO has asked Norway to take the lead role in Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) during the second half of 2013. In this role the frigate and the force commander’s staff will also take the lead in Operation Ocean Shield.
This is the first time that one of the new frigates has taken part in a NATO operation.
"With this we are showing that Norway is also ready to take on important NATO tasks at sea. Norway possesses modern frigates with excellent operational capabilities, well-trained crews and staff officers capable of leading demanding maritime operations," the defence minister emphasises.
It is these same NATO forces that will come to the rescue if a situation requiring international crisis management arises in the sea areas closer to home.
Pirate activity has been at a high level in the Indian Ocean since 2008. More offensive tactics from the international anti-piracy forces and the shipping companies’ own preventive measures have since made voyages somewhat safer. Since the spring of 2011 there has been a clear reduction in the number of hijackings but the problem is still a serious one.
"The piracy situation has improved but it is still necessary to take military measures which can contribute towards increasing the safety and security of shipping and those who sail in these waters. This naval presence remains a necessity if the situation is not to spiral out of control once more," says defence minister Strøm-Erichsen.
The frigate will be carrying special forces personnel from the naval or coastal Ranger Commands, elite units more than capable of boarding or attacking pirate vessels.
Must be resolved on land
The pirate activities have had a serious impact on global shipping in recent years and they pose a significant threat to humanitarian aid supplies for Somalia.
"Norway is a major shipping nation and wishes to help in combating this pirate activity. At the same time it is important to emphasise that the long-term solution to the pirate problem can only be achieved on land," says Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen.
The cost of participating in the Standing NATO Maritime Group is estimated to amount to around NOK 94 million. Additional expense associated with the force command role in Operation Ocean Shield is estimated to be NOK 60 million with outgoings of NOK 45 million in 2013. These costs will be met within the framework of the defence budget.
Norway has previously contributed a frigate to participate in the EU operation Atalanta (Aug 2009 – Jan 2010) together with staff officers for both the EU and the NATO operation. In 2010 a Norwegian Orion maritime patrol aircraft took part in NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield for a period of three months.
Facts and background:
About 20,000 vessels pass through this area annually and about a thousand of these are under Norwegian control. Approximately one half of these sail under the Norwegian flag.
NATO established Operation Ocean Shield on 17 August 2009. The operation is led from the NATO maritime headquarters at Northwood outside London. The EU’s maritime operation off the coast of Somalia is named Atalanta and was set up in 2008. The international anti-piracy work is organised on the basis of a mandate from the UN Security Council. The UN Security Council has, in a number of resolutions, urged states and organisations to participate in combating Somali piracy.