Anti-Piracy Efforts

Q1 Why is the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) conducting anti-piracy operations?

A1.The Coast of Somalia/Gulf of Aden is in the midst of the important maritime crossroad which links Asia and Europe. The stability of this water is extremely important for Japan because it heavily relies on maritime transportation to import most of its resources and food necessary for its survival and prosperity. However, from around 2008, there have been multiple incidents by pirates armed with machine guns and rocket launchers in the area.

Piracy is a serious threat to public safety and order on the seas, and thus all states are required to cooperate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Moreover, the UN General Council Resolution 1816 passed in June 2008 and its successive resolutions have requested all nations to take actions in repressing piracy in these waters. Therefore, for Japan as well, it has become necessary to fulfill international responsibilities to combat piracy proactively.

Situation on the occurrence of piracy incidents

Under the Anti-piracy Measures Law passed in June 2009, while the Japan Coast Guard (JCG), one of the law enforcement agencies in Japan, is required to primarily take responsibility to cope with piracy, the SDF is supposed to take actions when the JCG has difficulties to deal with pirates by itself. Considering the difficult situation to dispatch JCG patrol boats to the Coast of Somalia/Gulf of Aden far away from Japan to take actions against pirates heavily armed with weapons such as rocket launchers, the SDF units have been dispatched to the Coast of Somalia/Gulf of Aden.

The number of piracy incidents which occurred in 2007 was 44, but it has continued to increase over the following years, and reached 237 in 2011. In 2012, the number of incidents was 57 up to the end of May, indicating that piracy incidents are decreasing compared to the same period in 2011 (152 cases). However, it still remains at a high level, indicating the difficulty to estimate the trend.

Q2 How is the scale of the dispatched forces.

A2.The SDF has currently dispatched two destroyers and two P-3C maritime patrol aircraft. About 400 members of the “Deployed Maritime Units for Anti-Piracy Operations” equipped with destroyers, and about 190 members of the “Deployed Air Units for Anti-Piracy Operations” equipped with patrol aircraft are working to secure the safety of civilian ships in the Gulf of Aden. In addition, a new unit to conduct communication and coordination with related bodies including the Djibouti government was established in July this year, which is supposed to contribute to the smooth operations of the deployed forces.

Organization of the Deployed Forces

Organization of the Deployed Forces

Q3 What are the dispatched forces doing?

SDF personnel watching the surrounding areas of the convoy
SDF personnel watching the surrounding areas of the convoy

A3.[Deployed Maritime Units for Anti-Piracy Operations]

The two destroyers are escorting civilian ships while shuttling back and forth across the Gulf of Aden. Regarding the method of escorting, two destroyers first form the convoy at the assembly point (there are two assembly points for escorting located at the eastern and western ends of the Gulf). Since civilian vessels differ in their capabilities, SDF destroyers then organize the most appropriate fleet formation to effectively protect the vessels. When the convoy is navigating through the Gulf, the destroyers guard the front and rear of the convoy; and helicopters carried on the destroyers watch the surrounding areas. It takes about two days to complete a convoy mission in the Gulf. So far, the convoy has never been attacked by pirates. During the operations, eight JCG officers are on board to conduct law enforcement activities when required.

[Deployed Air Units for Anti-Piracy Operations]

The P-3C maritime patrol aircraft based in the Republic of Djibouti are conducting surveillance activities utilizing their long cruising range over the Gulf of Aden which is almost equal in size with the entire area of Japan. The P3-C, after taking off from Djibouti, watches whether there are suspicious boats among numerous ships navigating in the Gulf. They also provide information for SDF’s and other states’ military vessels conducting escort activity as well as for civilian ships cruising in its vicinity, and confirm the safety of the surrounding areas as soon as possible after requested.

Current OperationsCurrent Operations

Activities of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (South Sudan PKO)

Q4 What is the plan for the future MOD/SDF activities concerning anti-piracy efforts?

A4.Piracy in the Coast of Somalia/Gulf of Aden remains threat to the international community including Japan. Japan has been making multi-layered efforts to resolve this problem from the mid-long term standpoint including the prevention of piracy through helping countries surrounding Somalia enhance their maritime surveillance capabilities and the stabilization of the domestic security in Somalia which is said to be the key to preventing piracy.

The MOD/SDF would continue to engage in anti-piracy efforts while coordinating with other countries to secure safe navigation of the civilian vessels passing through this water without threatened by piracy.

MSDF destroyer escorting civilian ships
MSDF destroyer escorting civilian ships
P-3C patrol aircraft conducting surveillance activities
P-3C patrol aircraft conducting surveillance activities
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