Department of National Defence

Department of National Defence

April 17, 2009 13:29 ET

Canadian Navy to Escort World Food Programme Ship

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 17, 2009) - The Government of Canada has authorized Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) Winnipeg, currently conducting counter-piracy operations in the coastal region of Somalia, to conduct a naval escort of a UN World Food Programme (WFP) ship carrying life-saving supplies to Somalia. The government is acting on a request from the UN World Food Programme and UN International Maritime Organization, submitted through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

"The Government of Canada is pleased to help ensure that the people of Somalia receive the food and supplies they so urgently need," said the Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay, Minister of National Defence and the Atlantic Gateway. "Through the brave work of the men and women serving in HMCS Winnipeg, Canada is once again able to make a difference by ensuring the safe arrival of World Food Programme supplies."

The WFP is responding to urgent humanitarian needs in Somalia and aims to feed some 3.5 million Somalis in 2009. Ninety per cent of WFP food assistance for Somalia arrives by sea. While pirates have launched more than 79 attacks in 2009 on vessels off Somalia's eastern and northern coasts, naval escorts have so far proven very effective in deterring pirate attacks on food aid shipments. To date, no WFP-contracted ships have been targeted while under escort. Naval escorts have been provided by Canada, France, Denmark and the Netherlands, among others, over the last year. Somalia has been beset by instability and insecurity for almost 20 years and is further affected by regional drought and increasing world food prices.

"The ability of the Canadian Forces to respond to such requests only demonstrates the agility of our military and Canada's determination to support these international relief efforts," said General Walt Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff.

On March 31, 2009, HMCS Winnipeg commenced Operation SEXTANT, Canada's maritime contribution to the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1), in a NATO-led counter-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden. She will continue in her piracy deterrence role with NATO while escorting the World Food Programme ship.

As part of Canada's commitment to maintaining security in the region, HMCS Ville de Quebec completed 10 escort missions between Aug. 6 and Oct. 23, 2008, ensuring the safe delivery of 36, 200 metric tons of food to Somalia. Canada also deployed HMCS Iroquois, HMCS Calgary, and HMCS Protecteur from April- October 2008 to Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, a multinational coalition fleet of six to ten warships from a variety of nations formed to conduct maritime security operations southeast of the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea to the Suez Canal and portions of the Indian Ocean.

Note to editors:

For more information on Operation SEXTANT, visit: http://www.cefcom.forces.gc.ca/pa-ap/ops/sextant/index-eng.asp

Photos of HMCS Winnipeg's mission can be viewed at www.combatcamera.forces.gc.ca

B-roll available at http://www.combatcamera.forces.gc.ca/common/combatcamera/news/

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