x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Navy gives Seychelles five patrol boats to fight pirates

Gift is 'pledge of friendship' says Sheikh Saeed as president of the island country thanks the UAE, praising its foresight and quick action.

Two of the five patrol boats from the UAE that were handed over to the Seychelles Coast Guard.
Two of the five patrol boats from the UAE that were handed over to the Seychelles Coast Guard.

ABU DHABI // The Navy has given five patrol boats to the Seychelles to boost the island nation's fight against Somali pirates.

James Michel, the president of the Seychelles, said: "The UAE pledged the donation of five maritime patrol vessels in July last year, and today it has delivered on this pledge with great speed and efficiency."

"We are deeply grateful for this gesture and we note its importance as our fight against piracy is an immediate concern which requires swift action and concrete support from the international community."

The Seychelles, an archipelago of about 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, has been placed at the forefront of the fight against piracy.

Intensified anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden are pushing pirates further south towards the Seychelles, which has had to deploy troops to far-flung islands to stop pirates from using them as staging grounds.

Pirates have deeply harmed the country's tourism and fishing industry, with frequent attacks and sightings reported.

The donation of the patrol boats is "particularly timely because of the problem of piracy that we are facing", said Jean Paul Adam, the Seychelles minister of foreign affairs, calling the issue "deep and wide-ranging".

The Seychelles possessed only two armed patrol boats and a rescue boat that were expected to patrol 1.3 million kilometres of sea in which the island nation has exclusive fishing and mining rights.

"It is very difficult to patrol that size of ocean even with a large number of resources," Mr Adam said, particularly since piracy has been concentrated in the outer limits of this zone.

Virtually all the country's imports arrive by sea, which makes it more susceptible to pirate attacks, leading to rising insurance costs.

But Mr Adam insisted that piracy was a "regional problem", its effects not confined to one state.

"The sea lanes are our arteries," Mr Adam said. "A number of other countries with more diversified economies … didn't immediately see the impact of piracy.

"I think the UAE has demonstrated great foresight in seeing that this problem, if not curtailed, can spread and cause problems around the world," he said, adding that the donation showed the UAE's commitment to safe and thriving international trade.

President Michel said the boats, which were given to the Seychelles Coast Guard, would allow his country to increase maritime surveillance and provide support to marine vessels in the region.

Sheikh Saeed bin Hamdan Al Nahyan, the Deputy Commander of the Navy, said the vessels constituted a "pledge of friendship" between the people of the UAE and the Seychelles, adding that he hoped the boats "will help to limit the danger of piracy".

The UAE also trained Seychelles Coast Guard personnel on the use of the boats.

The UAE agreed in July to fund the building of a coastguard base worth $15 million (Dh55m) to help respond to pirate attacks.

The international community is joining in the fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia. The United States has deployed advanced Reaper drones to scour the surrounding sea for pirates.

"The relationship could not be better and has been characterised as a relationship based on true friendship and partnership," Mr Adam said.

He laid out the UAE's contributions to the development of the Seychelles, beginning with the Emirates donating $15m towards the Seychelles' budget when the country approached the international community for assistance in the wake of the financial crisis.

As a middle-income country, the Seychelles is not eligible for a range of development assistance programmes.

The UAE injected $30m into a social housing programme, paid for the information technology development in schools, donated two electricity generators and is funding a new diagnostic centre in the country's main hospital that is worth $11m.

"Our economy is really picking up now and it is in no small part thanks to the UAE," Mr Adam said.

kshaheen@thenational.ae