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Denmark union backs naval support in Gulf of Guinea

22 December 2021

The Dansk Metal union has thrown its weight behind anti-piracy naval support in the Gulf of Guinea.

Director of the union's seafaring section Ole Philipsen told Nautilus that the international war frigates are 'definitely helping' to combat piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

Dank Metal is 'fully supporting' the Danish effort, with the Danish frigate Esbern Snare acting quickly to prevent attacks, and the Danish government acting with long-term measures to prevent locals being recruited into piracy.

'It's a problem that seafarers, who are just doing their job, are at risk of being victims of violent criminality carried out by ice cold and extreme pirates,' Mr Philipsen said. 'Our view is that owners are doing all they can to implement security procedures to protect crews the best they can. Our advice to affected members is to always follow their employers' guidelines and to be on guard when in the Gulf of Guinea.'

The union would continue to act, nationally and internationally, to address the problem of piracy, including in the Gulf of Guinea. 'Focus still needs to remain on the area, even though we've witnessed the piracy activities there tailing off.'

Mr Philipsen was speaking after the Esbern Snare was involved in a gun battle in the Gulf of Guinea on 24 November, which resulted in the deaths of four people suspected of piracy, and the capture of four more. A fifth is believed to have drowned during the battle, according to the Danish Armed Forces. The boat used by the suspected pirates sank after being hit by gunfire. No Danish soldiers were injured in the fighting.

The frigate, with a Seahawk helicopter, had been sent by the Danish government to the Gulf to prevent piracy and keep sea routes open, and was involved in an exchange of fire when its crew attempted to stop a vessel it considered suspicious.

Christer Haven of The Danish Armed Forces confirmed the four persons in custody have been charged with attempted murder. Their nationality is not being disclosed. Diplomatic manoeuvrings are underway with a view to handing those charged over to the Nigerian authorities.

However, academics and human rights campaigners – including Amnesty International – point out that Denmark is prevented from handing them over if they would be subjected to torture or inhumane treatment. Amnesty believes conditions in Nigerian jails are so terrible they amount to torture.

The Danish military said the prisoners have been allowed to contact their families in Nigeria and to hold video conferences with defence lawyers appointed to deal with their cases in Denmark.

On 13 December, Esbern Snare again responded to suspected piracy around the island of Bioko off Equatorial Guinea, in international waters. A container vessel, named as M/V Tonsberg by the Danish Armed Forces, sent out a mayday signal. The frigate's helicopter crew observed a skiff alongside the container ship with what they believed to be pirates and hostages.

The skiff sped away, after throwing items overboard, towards the Niger Delta with hostages on board. The helicopter later returned to the frigate, which is not allowed to enter national waters.

The Danish authorities report that the container vessel had several crew members on board and one had been injured by gunshot to the leg. The injured crewmember was taken on board the frigate and was reported to be in a stable condition. Six container ship crew members were reported missing after the episode by the Ritzau news agency.



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