Cape Town - Armed with an arsenal of machine guns and artillery, the French surveillance frigate and part-time pirate-fighting vessel Nivôse arrived at the V&A Waterfront on Saturday.

The ship’s captain Samuel Majou a veteran of 20 years at sea, came bearing good news in the long-running battle against pirates along the Somali coast.

“The number of pirate attacks have dropped from (around 150) in 2010 and 2011 to just 50 in 2012,” he said.

Majou said this was a sign that active patrols in the area deterred criminal activity.

According to Oceans Beyond Piracy, an organisation that seeks to mobilise a response to the scourge, piracy across the globe cost companies and countries almost $11 billion in 2011.

Since Operation Atalanta, a large-scale military operation undertaken by the EU Naval Force to combat acts of piracy along the coast of Somalia, began in 2008 - pirate activity has been steadily dropping.

In the past four years, Majou said the Nivôse has been responsible for the capture of 80 pirates along the Somali coast.

“They are usually on small fishing boats or whalers,” he said. “When we detain them, we sink the boat with explosives or leave it on shore.”

There were no captured pirates on board the vessel on Thursday because captives were immediately taken to the relevant country where they were imprisoned and prosecuted by local authorities.

The surveillance frigate, which is stationed as part of a five-strong French fleet at La Reunion French Island near Mauritius, conducts several patrol missions in the Indian Ocean in the Southern and Antarctic - primarily focused on scouting out illegal fishing vessels.

The ship is equipped with a range of guns, including a massive 100mm turret, and has its own helicopter which is launched from a helipad at the stern.

But the on-board bakery, which the 100 crew insisted is unique to French vessels, is the sailors’ favourite addition providing them with fresh bread throughout their 200-day patrols.

After its stop in Cape Town to refuel and restock the kitchens, the Nivôse will head for the Thousand Islands that straddle the Canada-US border where it will patrol for illegal fishermen.

The vessel will be docked at the Waterfront’s Jetty 2 until Monday.

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