Victoria, November 7, 2009 — The Seychelles and the
US Africa Command on Friday demonstrated drones to be used to detect
Somali pirate boats that have wreaked havoc in maritime activities and
traffic in the western Indian Ocean.
A US military MQ-9 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) was tested at an event
attended by Seychelles Transport and Environment Minister Joel Morgan,
who also heads his small island nation's High Level Committee on Piracy.
"This UAV programme specifically, will be able to help monitor large
areas and detect the presence of pirates who operate in small boats
which are often difficult to spot," Morgan said.
"This surveillance activity will complement and reinforce the other
military assistance we are already receiving," he added.
The world's naval powers last year started deploying warships in the
Gulf of Aden in an attempt to curb attacks by ransom-hunting pirates
that were seen as a threat to one of the globe's most crucial maritime
Pirate groups have since shifted their focus to the wider Indian Ocean,
a huge area much more difficult to patrol, and started venturing as far
as the Seychelles and beyond.
The small nation, which is highly reliant on tourism and the
tuna-fishing industry, has expressed fears that unchecked expansion of
Somali piracy in its waters could deal a fatal blow to its economy.
With 115 islands scattered inside an exclusive economic zone (EEZ)
spanning 1.4 million square kilometres, a population of only 85,000 and
a military of 500, the Seychelles has requested foreign assistance to
stave off the pirates.
"The UAVs that you've seen are playing an important role but please keep
in mind that it's one piece in a much larger effort," US public affairs
officer Craig White said at Friday's event.
"This is very much one part of a multinational effort, UN-authorised, to
go after the pirates," he said.
Most of the attacks against foreign vessels by Somali pirates in the
past month were carried out in or around the Seychelles EEZ.
"Under the current program in the Seychelles, the MQ-9s are not carrying
weapons, though the capability does exist," according to a US military
Source: AFP, November 6, 2009