NATO is considering whether to extend its anti-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia beyond next month, a spokesman said Tuesday, as pirates anchored a captured Saudi super-tanker into the area.
"There will be a second discussion in NATO referring to a potential longer-term role," spokesman James Appathurai told reporters in Brussels.
NATO has four ships -- from Britain, Greece, Italy and Turkey -- on patrol in the waters, with two protecting U.N. food aid convoys to the strife-torn Horn of Africa country.
NATO’s "Operation Atalanta" ends in mid-December when a bigger European Union mission is to be put in place, but the military alliance is wondering "would anything complementary be necessary to the EU mission", Appathurai said.
He added that NATO played no role in response to the seizure of the oil-laden Saudi tanker, the Sirius Star, which was taken at the weekend in waters way off the coast of Kenya and Tanzania. On Tuesday, the super-tanker was anchored off the So from the place where the NATO operation is supposed to take place."
According to the U.S. navy, the tanker -- which is as big as three soccer fields -- is the largest ship ever seized by pirates and the hijacking was the farthest out to sea Somali bandits have attacked a vessel.
Experts say the attack shows few ships are safe sailing the Indian Ocean.
Appathurai noted that NATO had escorted around 7,000 tons of humanitarian aid to Somalia since its operation began this month, and cited the U.N. World Food Program as saying that no pirate attacks had hit its ships since.
The WFP ships 30,000 to 35,000 tons of aid into Somalia each month.