European Union Naval Force – Operations Off Somalia’s Coast
On Friday 24 February 2017 Rear Admiral Rafael Fernández-Pintado Muñoz-Rojas assumed the role of Force Commander of the European Union’s counter-piracy Operation Atalanta on board his flagship, ESPS Galicia, during a ceremony held in Djibouti port.
Djibouti is a key partner to the EU, with the busy port providing valuable logistical support to Operation Atalanta maritime patrol aircraft and warships. Translators from the Djiboutian Navy also regularly embark Operation Atalanta warships during their counter-piracy patrols to assist the sailors during their meetings with Somali and other regional forces.
The ceremony was attended by the Spanish Minister of Defence, EXCMA María Dolores de Cospedal García; the head of the EU Delegation in Djibouti, Ambassador Adam Kulach and Operation Atalanta’s Deputy Operation Commander (DCOM), Rear Admiral Giovanbattista Raimondi.
With a Force HQ staff of 26 during the next five months, Rear Admiral Fernández-Pintado will have tactical command of Operation Atalanta warships and maritime patrol aircraft as they conduct their counter-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.
Operation Atalanta was launched in December 2008 and is part of the European Union’s efforts to ensure Somali-based piracy remains suppressed to enable World Food Programme vessels that carry humanitarian aid to Somali ports and merchant ships that transport goods to and from Europe, stay safe from pirate attack.
Other key roles for Operation Atalanta warships are to monitor fishing activities off the Somali coast and to support EU sister missions that are working to strengthen maritime security and capacities of regional states in the Horn of Africa.
Speaking during the ceremony Rear Admiral Fernández-Pintado stated “I am truly honoured to be Operation Atalanta’s Force Commander. The continued deterrence of piracy off the coast of Somalia is crucial if we are to ensure seafarers remain safe. My team and I will work relentlessly to ensure that there is no hiding place for would-be pirates and it is my intention to work as closely as possible with the other EU missions in the region.”
In reply, Rear Admiral Raimondi stated “We should remember that any success we have had in suppressing pirate attacks could be reversible. The international community must remain vigilant and not give any would-be pirates the sea room to attack vessels and their crews. I know that Rear Admiral Fernández-Pintado and his Force HQ staff are fully prepared and ready to react to any challenges they may face. Rafael – you have my and the Operation Commander’s best wishes. Fair winds and following seas.”
Spanish Navy warship, ESPS Rayo, has completed a successful escort of a World Food Programme (WFP) ship, MV Al Safa, to the port of Bossaso in Somalia. MV Al Safa was chartered by the WFP to take urgently needed food to the people of Somalia, under the protection of an EU NAVFOR warship.
ESPS Rayo is currently deployed with the European Union’s counter-piracy force off the coast of Somalia. EU NAVFOR’s mission is to help protect WFP vessels and international shipping from the dangers of piracy and armed robbery at sea. During their patrols, EU NAVFOR warships also monitor fishing activity along the coast and report any vessels actively engaged in fishing to staff at the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DGMARE). Working with international colleagues, DGMARE will investigate the vessel, and if deemed appropriate, seek prosecution, as was the case with fishing vessel, Greko 1 in 2016.
Under the direction of the Force Commander, Rear Admiral Fabio Gregori, ESPS Rayo successfully ensured that the WFP ship was free from danger during their humanitarian mission.
During a recent replenishment at sea off the coast of Somalia, Sea King helicopters from EU NAVFOR’s flag ship, ESPS Galicia, and a Merlin helicopter from UK supply vessel, RFA Fort Victoria, took the opportunity to carry out air coordination training.
The training included communication exercises and flying in close formation. Training such as this enables aviation teams from different nations and task forces to work together and strengthen cooperation at sea.
ESPS Galicia has been deployed with EU NAVFOR since February 2017. She will commence her return home to her base port of Rota in Spain at the end of July this year.
To ensure that they remain fully prepared to deal with any security incident off the coast of Somalia, Spanish Marines on board ESPS Galicia conduct regular force protection training at sea.
The training includes weapon firings and radio communications exercises to ensure that the ship is ready to respond to a potential sea-borne attack.
Commissioned into the Spanish Navy in 1998, ESPS Galicia is a Landing Platform Dock (LPD) ship. She has a displacement of 13,000 tonnes, a large helicopter deck and an 885-square metre ‘well deck’ to hold her large landing craft.
She has been deployed off the coast of Somalia as EU NAVFOR’s counter-piracy flagship since February 2017. She will commence her return home to her base port of Rota in Spain at the end of July this year.
Operation Atalanta’s latest Maritime Protection Team (MPT) from Serbia has arrived in Djibouti to take over the protection of World Food Programme (WFP) vessel, MV Esbjerg, from the team from Montenegro.
The highly trained Serbian team was welcomed to the EU’s counter-piracy operation by the Support Element Atalanta Officer-in-Command, Commander Jean-Marc Stervinou (French Navy). After embarking MV Esbjerg the team will provide round-the-clock protection to the ship as it transports vital WFP food aid to Somalia.
Serbia provides a MPT to Operation Atalanta as part of its contribution to the EU Naval Force’s fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia. Operation Atalanta is a multinational naval force that has helped to strengthen maritime security in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean since 2008.
EU NAVFOR Mission
The European Union is concerned with the effect of Somali-based piracy and armed robbery at sea off the Horn of Africa and in the Western Indian Ocean. Somali-based piracy is characterised by criminals taking control of vessels transiting the High Risk Area in the Region and extorting ransom money for the crew, the vessel and cargo: this bears all the features of organised crime. Crews held hostage by pirates often face a prolonged period of captivity, the average being 5 months, although some hostages have been held for almost three years. Moreover, piracy impacts on international trade and maritime security and on the economic activities and security of countries in the region.
As a result, and as part of its Comprehensive Approach to Somalia, the EU launched the European Union Naval Force ATALANTA (EU NAVFOR) in December 2008 within the framework of the European Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and in accordance with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) and International Law.
[Source: European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR)-/- Media Relations]
[Photo Credits: Photos Courtesy of EU NAVFOR / inserted by Openeyesopinion.com]
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