Maritime Security Cell launched to protect ships in risky waters

Summary

Belgium has officially opened its new Maritime Security Cell, which will provide 24-hour surveillance of ships travelling through dangerous international waters

In hot water

The state secretary for the North Sea, Philippe De Backer (Open VLD), has launched the Maritime Security Cell to constantly monitor cargo, dredging or any other Belgian ships that are travelling through waters considered dangerous.

Flanders News reports that the new system was officially launched this week and is meant to monitor and help protect Belgians ships that are travelling through waters known for terrorist activity and piracy. These currently include areas off the coasts of Yemen and Syria as well as the Gulf of Guinea.

In 2009, the 10-member crew of a Flemish dredging ship were held hostage by Somali pirates for more than two months north of the Seychelles islands. The siege ended only when Aalst-based dredging company Jan De Nul paid a ransom, thought to be €2 million.

The following year, a new law was passed allowing frigate crews monitoring the waters off the coast of Somalia as part of the EU’s Atalanta mission to arrest pirates. They are also allowed to extradite suspects to the country from where the target ship comes.