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The Gulf of Aden, off the Horn of Africa, through which some 33,000 commercial ships pass each year, is one of the world's busiest seaways – and one of the most dangerous. Since the beginning of this year, there have been 138 reported pirate attacks on commercial vessels, of which 33 were successful.
The United States government, in concert with the U.S. maritime industry and other concerned nations and international organizations, continues to work to prevent pirates operating in the waters of the Horn of Africa from interfering with maritime commerce, endangering mariners, hindering the provision of humanitarian aid to East Africa, and further destabilizing the troubled region.
The U.S. believes that all commercial vessels should take self protection measures to reduce the risk of piracy. In order to successfully deter these criminal assaults on the high seas the commercial shipping industry should continue to provide input to, and follow, internationally recognized best management practices to avoid, deter, or delay acts of piracy.
The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard have contributed ships and aircraft to NATO's counter-piracy operations and Combined Task Force 151, a multinational coalition whose mission is to protect against piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the eastern coast of Somalia. The command rotates among partner navies regularly. The U.S. Navy and its task force partners actively coordinate with and support the anti-piracy operations of NATO's Operation Ocean Shield naval forces in the region, as well as those of the European Union's naval Operation Atalanta.
Despite the fact that over 1 million square miles of ocean are vulnerable to Somali piracy, the U.S. and other navies have succeeded so far in seizing or destroying 40 pirate vessels since August 2008, turning over 235 suspected pirates for prosecution in various countries, and confiscating numerous small arms and light weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades.
Following the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1851 the U.S. helped to create the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia to coordinate an effective response to piracy in that region. The U.S. is supporting international efforts to help build regional judicial, legislative, regulatory, and coastal defense forces to deal with the piracy problem.
The U.S. believes that pirates should be brought to justice and that the first option for prosecution should go to the state most concerned – be it the flag state or the state of the vessel's owner or crew.
The United States is committed to work with its international partners to making the waters off the coast of Somalia safe for international commerce.