EU-funded exercise to boost maritime security cooperation

Through the MASE programme funded by the European Union, the Indian Ocean Commission organised the first MASE POLMAR 2019 wide-ranging regional exercise from 16 to 20 October in Madagascar.

The event brought together representatives of the MASE agreements’ signatories countries: Comoros, Djibouti, France, Reunion Island, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles and Somalia as an observer, International liaison officers and watch-standers from the Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre and the Regional Coordination of Operation Centre, as well as a representative of the European Navy – EUNAVFOR.

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Operation ATALANTA Assists Somali Navy Personnel Stranded off the Coast of Cadale

EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation ATALANTA's ESPS Canarias towed the vessel belonging to Somali Navy personnel back to the Somali shore.

On the morning of 20 October 2019, EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation ATALANTA received a request to assist a vessel belonging to the Somali Navy in distress some 60 km north of Cadale. The vessel had reportedly experienced mechanical difficulties and the crew was concerned for their safety.

EU NAVFOR Somalia launched a maritime patrol reconnaissance aircraft (MPRA) to determine the location of the Somali Naval vessel in distress. After contact and coordination with the Somali Navy Headquarters and the Mogadishu Port Police, Operation ATALANTA decided to send its closest vessel to assist the Somali Navy personnel. The Spanish frigate ESPS Canarias had been on its way to make a scheduled port visit nearby when the distress call altered the mission.

The Canarias’ boarding and medical teams reached the Somali vessel early Monday morning and provided the sailors with food, water and technical assistance. After The seven Somali Navy sailors were brought to safety they thanked EU NAVFOR Somalia for their efforts.

“Our team has headed the ESPS Canarias with great tact and efficiency upon reacting on this emergency request,” said Operation ATALANTA Commander Major-General Antonio Planells Palau.

“Operation ATALANTA remains committed to maintaining security in the waters off the Somali coast and supporting other actors with shared objectives in the region. We are proud to have assisted these Somali Navy sailors to safety. Well done everyone.”

EU NAVFOR Somalia operates in an Area of Operations that covers the Southern Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and a large part of the Indian Western Ocean.

In addition to deterring piracy and contributing to the free flow of commerce, Operation ATALANTA’s mandate includes monitoring of fishing activity off the coast of Somalia, protecting vessels of the World Food Programme (WFP) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and supporting other EU missions and international organisations working to strengthen maritime security and capacity in the region.


Operation King Crab عملية “كِينْك كراب” – (يعني “سلطعون الملك”)

Operation ‘King Crab’ led by CTF 151 has successfully ended using assets from 9 nations. It involved a concentrated effort over four days, with increased counter-piracy patrols, air reconnaissance and visits to merchant vessels and local dhows. Information sharing and boarding exercises also took place. Rear Admiral Yu said: “Ultimately we all have the same goal of promoting security and stability in the region to legitimate seafarers by defeating piracy. Operations such as ‘King Crab’, greatly increase our ability to do this.”


CTF151 Boat Crews approaching friendly Somali fishermen

EU NAVFOR Somalia MPRAs Fly In Support of CTF-151 Focused Operation

This week, EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation ATALANTA’s German Maritime Patrol Reconnaissance Aircraft supported a multi-national counter-piracy operation led by Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151) in the Gulf of Aden.

The assets involved in Focused Operation “King Crab” were from nine different nations, and included the Republic of Korea Ship (ROKS) Kang Gam Chan; the Japanese Ship (JS) Sazanami and the Royal Navy of Oman Vessel (RNOV) Al-Dhafreh in support.

The operation was a concentrated effort that spanned over four days and saw the counter-piracy task force and its partners undertake increased counter-piracy patrols and maritime engagement visits to merchant vessels and local dhows. The participating assets also partook in joint training and boarding exercises.

The exercises also reinforced the importance of information-sharing amongst the wide combination of counter-piracy partners.

“Ultimately we all have the same goal of promoting security and stability in the region to legitimate seafarers by defeating piracy and criminal attacks,” said Commander CTF 151, Rear Admiral Byeong-Ju Yu, ROKN. “Focused Operations such as King Crab greatly increase our ability to do this.”

Operation ATALANTA’s MPRAs have now returned to regular operations, patrolling the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea and Arabian Sea alongside other EU NAVFOR naval Assets.


Agency wants EU to expand maritime security mandate over Horn of Africa


A regional maritime organisation wants a European Union military ships operating in the Horn of Africa to extend its mandate to cover all maritime crimes in the Indian Ocean.

The Inter-Governmental Standing Committee on Shipping (ISCOS), says the EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation ATALANTA— which mainly focuses on anti-piracy activities — should extend its mandate to deal with all the maritime crimes including terrorism, charcoal smuggling as well as drug and human trafficking.

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MSN Note: Expanding the mandate of Operation Atalanta has been discussed for years, but this is the first real credible move. Somalis have been asking for fisheries protection for some time, and a naval presence would go some way to deterring foreign fleets from IUU fishing activity in Somali waters. Additionally, as Somalia and Kenya continue to argue about their respective TTWs, maritime security for oil and gas will become increasingly important in the region. Al Shabaab continues to profit from smuggled charcoal, something which would become much harder with additional maritime security present.

Counter-Piracy Task Forces work together to deter piracy at sea

Warships from three nations have taken part in a counter-piracy surge operation, led by Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 in the Gulf of Aden. The operation was part of the Republic of Korea-led CTF 151’s mission to deter piracy and to contribute to wider maritime security in the region by focusing shared resources and assets over a prolonged period.

Collaboration between CTF 151, EUNAVFOR’s counter-piracy Task Force and the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force ensured maximum response and support to the operation. A Japanese Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft also took part.

The ships ROKS Daejoyeong, ESPS Navarra and JS Asagiri worked together in conducting Maritime Awareness Calls to engage with local mariners and increase their understanding of the Combined Maritime Forces and CTF 151 role.

Captain Andrew Rose, Royal Navy, Deputy Commander of CTF151, said: “Operations such as this help to build partnerships and interoperability among the various stakeholders involved in counter-piracy. It also helps to build friendships and understanding amongst mariners to increase maritime security and suppress piracy.”

The long term aims of counter-piracy stakeholders are to deter and disrupt piracy by working together; to enhance information sharing and to engage with regional partners, the merchant shipping community and local mariners.


Iran tanker seizure: Hunt seeks European help on Gulf shipping

The foreign secretary has repeated his call for the release of a British-flagged ship and its crew detained in the Gulf by the Iranian military.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard captured the Stena Impero and its 23 crew members in the Gulf on Friday.

Jeremy Hunt told MPs it was an act of “state piracy”.

Mr Hunt said the UK would develop a maritime protection mission with other European nations to allow ships to pass through the area safely.

The foreign secretary secured support for the initiative from both French and German foreign ministers on the phone on Sunday evening, the BBC has been told.

Addressing the Commons after a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee, Mr Hunt said he spoke with a “heavy heart” but if Iran continued to act as it had, it would have to accept a “larger Western military presence” along its coastline.

The seizure of the Stena Impero in the key shipping route of the Strait of Hormuz came after Tehran said the vessel violated international maritime rules.

Iran’s state-run news agency said the tanker was captured after it collided with a fishing boat and failed to respond to calls from the smaller craft.

Mr Hunt said the ship was illegally seized in Omani waters and forced to sail into Bandar Abbas port in Iran, where it remains.

Although the crew and owners are not British, the Stena Impero carries the British flag so the UK owes protection to the vessel, maritime analysts said.

The seizure was the latest in a string of acts leading to escalating tensions between Iran and the UK and US.

Earlier this month Royal Marines helped to seize tanker Grace 1 off Gibraltar, because of evidence it was carrying Iranian oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

Mr Hunt said that vessel was detained legally, but Iran said it was “piracy” and threatened to seize a British oil tanker in retaliation.

In a statement to MPs in the Commons, Mr Hunt said the UK would seek to create a European-led mission to ensure safe passage of international vessels in the Gulf.

“Freedom of navigation is a vital interest of every nation,” he said.

US Central Command said it was developing a multinational maritime effort in response to the situation.

But the UK’s protection mission would not include the US because, Mr Hunt insisted, Britain was not part of President Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure” on Tehran.

The initiative would build on existing structures in the region such as the US Navy-led Combined Task Force 150, the BBC has learned.

Instead of focusing on tackling terrorism and the illegal drugs trade like the Combined Task Force 150, the new scheme would have a mandate to ensure freedom of navigation of international ships, the Foreign Office explained.

The mission would be implemented “as quickly as possible” but in the meantime the destroyer HMS Duncan has been sent to help keep British ships and crews safe in the region, Mr Hunt told the Commons.

Mr Hunt said the UK had sought to de-escalate the situation but there would be “no compromise” on freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz.

Bob Sanguinetti, CEO of the UK Chamber of Shipping, welcomed the announcement of the mission but said it was “imperative” the government protected British-flagged ships in the Gulf in the meantime.

Mr Hunt encouraged commercial shipping companies in the region to follow advice issued by the Department for Transport to help reduce “risks of piracy”, because it was “not possible for the Royal Navy to provide escorts for every single ship”.