Counter-Piracy Operations by Japanese Self-Defense Force


By Japanese Ministry of Defense

For Japan and the international community, the waters off the coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden are extremely important sea lanes.

In response to the piracy incidents in the area, Ministry of Defense (MOD) and Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) takes measures for counter-piracy operations.

Legislation Concerning Counter-Piracy Operations

In March 2009, for the purpose of protecting Japan-affiliated vessels from acts of piracy in the waters off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, two Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyers began providing direct escort to Japan-affiliated vessels, while JMSDF P-3C patrol aircraft also commenced warning and surveillance operations in June the same year.

In July the same year, in order to deal appropriately and effectively with acts of piracy, the Anti-Piracy Measures Act made it possible to protect the vessels of all nations from acts of piracy.

Activities by the Self-Defense Forces

Deployment Surface Force for Counter Piracy Enforcement (DSPE)

The DSPE conducts counterpiracy measures using JMSDF destroyers (one destroyer dispatched). The DSPE strives to ensure the safety of ships navigating in the area in two different manners – direct escort of private vessels across the Gulf of Aden, and zone defense in allocated areas in the Gulf of Aden. There are Japan Coast Guard (JCG) officers aboard the JMSDF destroyer.

The DAPE conducts counterpiracy activities using JMSDF P-3C patrol aircraft (two aircraft dispatched). The unit conducts warning and surveillance operations in the flight zone that is determined in coordination with the CTF 151 headquarters and confirms any suspicious boats. At the same time, the unit also provides information to the JMSDF destroyers, the naval vessels of other countries and civilian vessels, responding by such means as confirming the safety of the surrounding area immediately, if requested. The information gathered by JMSDF P-3Cs is constantly shared with other related organizations, and contributes significantly to deterring acts of piracy and disarming vessels suspected of being pirate ships.

In order to improve the operational efficiency and effectiveness of the DAPE, the DGPE carries out activities such as maintenance of the facility.

In addition to this, coordination with Government of Djibouti, the U.S. and other countries which are operating in Djibouti is one of the important tasks.

In order to strengthen coordination with the units of other countries engaged in counter-piracy operations and enhance the effectiveness of the JSDF’s counter-piracy operations, the MOD has dispatched JSDF personnel to the CTF 151 Headquarters since August 2014. During the period from May to August 2015, JSDF personnel assumed command of CTF 151 for the first time. The fourth commander is currently in office.

Disaster Relief Operations

In response to the damage caused by the heavy rain in Djibouti, a part of JSDF originally deployed for anti-piracy operations conducted water pumping in elementary school and junior high school as one of the international disaster relief operations from November 26 to December 2, 2019.

The counter-piracy operations by JSDF have been highly praised by the international community. For example, national leaders and others have expressed their gratitude, and JSDF has also been repeatedly well-received by the United Nations Security Council Resolution.

Although the number of acts of piracy occurring in the area has currently hovered at low level, considering the fact that the assumed root causes of piracy such as terrorism and poverty of Somalia have still remain unresolved and Somalia’s capability to crack down on piracy is still insufficient, there is no great change in the situation which calls for counter-piracy operations.

The MOD/JSDF will continue its utmost efforts to conduct counter-piracy operations.

This article was published in the March 2020, Japan Defense Focus.