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The European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) – Combats Piracy On The Seas

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European Union Naval Force Activities








The European Naval Force ‘Operation ATALANTA’, in cooperation with numerous nations navies and military components, combats piracy on the seas. The below news snippets are a compilation of some of their exercises conducted over the past few months.


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 characterized 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.


Rear Admiral Jonas Wikstrӧm from Swedish Royal Navy is New Deputy Commander for Operation Atalanta


(21 January 2016) Rear Admiral Christophe Mueller-Meinhard (German Navy) has handed over the role of Deputy Commander (DCOM) of the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Somalia – Operation Atalanta, to Rear Admiral Jonas Wikstrӧm (Swedish Royal Navy).

The handover took place at the Operational Headquarters (OHQ) in Northwood, London.

Following the handover, Rear Admiral Wikstrӧm said: “I want to thank Rear Admiral Mueller-Meinhard for his support and advice during the handover.  I am ready to build on his excellent contribution to what is an important European Union maritime operation.  The Operation Atalanta staff, both here in the OHQ and at sea, will continue to work hard to ensure that piracy remains suppressed off the coast of Somalia.”

For more details about Rear Admiral Wikstrӧm click here 

Italian Warship ITS Carabiniere Conducts Replenishment at Sea with US Navy Supply Ship Carl Brashear Prior to Joining Operation Atalanta


ITS Carabiniere conducted a replenishment at sea (RAS) with US Navy ship, USNS Carl Brashear, prior to joining Operation Atalanta.

Having sailed into the counter-piracy sea areas in the Gulf of Aden, ITS Carabiniere went alongside USNS Carl Brashear to replenish fuel and stores in preparation for her six month deployment with the EU Naval Force off the coast of Somalia.

The two-hour RAS required careful and complex co-ordination between the two ships to ensure that the fuel and stores were transferred safely.

On completion of the RAS, the commanding officers from both ships exchanged gifts as USNS Carl Brashear bid ITS Carabiniere’s ship’s company ‘fair winds’ for their forthcoming deployment.

Conducting a RAS at sea enables Operation Atalanta warships to maintain their counter-piracy presence and strengthen maritime security in the Horn of Africa region.

Atalanta Warship ESPS Victoria Trains with Japanese Escort Division in the Gulf of Aden


Spanish warship, ESPS Victoria, conducted a series of exercises with Japanese warship, JDS Suzunami, to strengthen counter-piracy cooperation between the two forces.

Meeting within close distance of the internationally recommended transit corridor in the Gulf of Aden, the exercises commenced with Spanish and Japanese helicopters conducting landings on both ships, in order to train flight crews and flight deck personnel.

Some crew members had the opportunity to operate on their counterparts’ ship to experience alternative procedures.

The two ships then carried out a ‘light-weight’ replenishment at sea, passing small packages from one ship to the other. This was followed by a ship handling and manoeuvering exercise and a small arms firing exercise. The end of training day was signalled by mutual farewells and naval honours.

Exercises such as this help to develop coordination and cooperation in the fight against piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

Specialist Italian Navy Divers Conduct Underwater Training on Atalanta Flagship ITS Carabiniere


In order to maintain their high state of readiness, the Italian Navy divers from the Gruppo Operativo Subacqueo (GOS) who are currently embarked in Operation Atalanta’s flagship, ITS Carabiniere, carry out regular diving training.

Normally based in La Spezia, the GOS are experts in explosive ordnance disposal.  They also conduct regular underwater inspections on ships’ hulls both at sea and when in port.

A key part of their explosive ordnance equipment is the anti-blast ‘bomb suit’, which protects the divers when they are operating with live ordnance and the suit is critical to the safe disposal of an explosive device.

“The potential presence of an explosive device close to the ship’s hull is something that the dive team remains ever vigilant about.” said the Team leader.  “Our job on board is to ensure the safety of the ship through regular inspections.  Our equipment and procedures allow us to detect suspicious objects and transfer them to a location suitable for safe disposal.”

Spanish Maritime Air Detachment Commander Holds Medal Ceremony for Operation Atalanta D4 Vigma Crew Prior to their Return Home


The Spanish Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA) Detachment held a medal ceremony in their headquarters in Djibouti.

The Detachment Commander, Spanish Air Force Lieutenant Commander Santiago Ibarreta, presided over the medal ceremony, which marked the official turnover of the D-4 Vigma crew to the newly-arrived Air Force P-3 contingent.

The Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) Atalanta Service Medal is an European military decoration awarded to personnel of the European Union Naval Force Somalia – Operation Atalanta, for their effort and commitment to counter-piracy operations.

The awarded crews and maintenance personnel were mainly from the 49th Wing of the Son San Juan Air Base in Palma de Mallorca, and one of the three D-4 Vigma units that have been rotating within the detachment every two months, since November 2014.

Lieutenant Commander Ibarreta congratulated the D4 Vigma crew for their outstanding performance, dedication and contribution to Operation Atalanta. “Your efforts have truly helped to ensure that piracy remains suppressed in the Horn of Africa and you have strengthen maritime security in the region.”

Lieutenant Commander Ibarreta’s words echoed those of the Operation Commander, Major General Martin Smith, and Force Commander, Rear Admiral Stefano Barbieri, who both sent farewell and congratulation messages to the departing crew.

Lieutenant Commander Ibarreta also welcomed back the crew of the P-3, who rejoined the operation after a long period and wished them the same success as the previous mission.

Collective Effort by Maritime Industry and Naval Forces Keep Pirate Attacks Suppressed: EU Naval Force Operation Commander, Major General Martin Smith MBE


(September 2015) At a breakfast meeting earlier today with senior shipping industry representatives, the EU Naval Force Operation Commander, Major General Martin Smith MBE, stated that whilst Somali-based piracy in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden is suppressed, there is no room for complacency regarding the on-going threat.

Major General Smith welcomed the significant reduction in pirate attacks since 2012, stating that this had been achieved by the ‘collective effort’ of shipping companies and dedicated naval forces, including the European Union Naval Force.  The General warned, however, that whilst the opportunity for pirates to get out to sea and attack ships had reduced, the pirates’ intent and capability remains.

Speaking during the meeting, Major General Smith said “It is clear that we have (together) come a long way since early 2011, when 736 hostages and 32 ships were being held for ransom in anchorages off Somali beaches.  However, the recent incidents of Iranian dhows being captured by groups of armed men demonstrate that there are still some who are prepared to go out to sea and take vessels for ransom.”

One of the dhows, Siraj, and its crew, is still being held after being captured at sea in March 2015.

Major General Smith went on to say that because of the naval patrols and merchant vessels’ self-protection measures, including the use of private armed security teams (PAST), in the Indian Ocean, counter-piracy forces assess that the threat from long-range pirate attacks in the near future is reduced.

“Collectively we have been able to curtail their use of mother ships to attack far from the coast, but I remain convinced that if pirates perceive that we are lowering our guard, they will seize the opportunity and plan an attack on a vulnerable ship.  And if they take one ship, this could re-energize their business model, which you know all too well, could cost the international community and shipping industry dearly.”

EU Naval Force’s main tasks are to escort merchant vessels carrying humanitarian aid for the World Food Programme (WFP) and vessels of AMISOM as they transit along the Somali coast, and to deter and disrupt piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.  EU Naval Force warships also monitor fishing activity off the coast of Somalia.

The current EU Naval Force mandate runs until December 2016.  In the coming months, EU Member States will carry out a strategic review of the piracy threat to enable them to make a collective decision on how to best proceed post-2016.

{Source: European Union External Actions – European Union Naval Force}

{photo credits-featured image: Spanish Navy Santa María Class Frigate Spanish Naval Ship (SPS) Victoria (F 82).- By JO1 JEREMY L. WOOD, USN [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]


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