The European Union is set to launch its first-ever naval operation on Monday, with six warships and three surveillance planes patrolling pirate infested seas in the Horn of Africa.
The EU vessels face the daunting task of covering an area of around one million square kilometres, in waters that have seen nearly 100 ships attacked by pirates this year.
And the mission's ability to serve any meaningful purpose -- beyond a deterrant role -- remains under a cloud, with critics saying the only way to beat piracy is to start the battle on land, in lawless Somalia.
For a year, vessels from at least eight countries -- Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden -- will escort aid ships and carry out anti-piracy duties under British Admiral Phillip Jones.
With a headquarters in Northwood near London, the fleet will initially be led off the coast of Somalia by Greek Admiral Antonios Popaioannou, with a Spaniard and then a Dutch officer taking over after three month terms.
~ more... ~