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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Source: neweurope.eu

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.

Source: eunavfor.eu

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.

Source: eunavfor.eu

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

By WINNIE ATIENO

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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Source: businessdailyafrica.com

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.

Departure of EU naval force risky for coast, report warns

By Samuel Baya

The possible withdrawal of the European Union Naval Force from the Indian Ocean waters has raised the need for other plans to ensure piracy does not rise again in the region, a new maritime report says.

A report by the Intergovernmental Standing Committee on Shipping (ISCOS) says that though piracy has been on the decline, the possibility of a withdrawal of the EU naval force that has been stationed in the Indian Ocean waters for years heralds uncertainty.

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Source: businessdailyafrica.com

One Month Since 2019’s First Piracy Attack Off The Somali Coast

“The need for a strong maritime security presence in the High-Risk Area remains critical for the deterrence and prevention of future incidents and attacks.”

Rear Admiral Antonio Martorell Lacave

On 21 April, suspected pirates seized a fishing dhow off the coast of Somalia, holding 23 people hostage. In a matter of hours, the European Union’s counter-piracy force EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation Atalanta had responded to the attack. Two days later, the incident was over; Operation Atalanta had detained five suspects and released 23 hostages.

An Attack Dismantled

The incident began when five suspected pirates captured a fishing dhow off the coast of Somalia. The suspects proceeded to navigate the dhow along the coast, where they visited a pirate base camp and reinforced their crew with additional members. Next, using the captured dhow as a mother ship, the suspects attacked another fishing vessel, the FV Adria. This attack took place in the Indian Ocean, some 280 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia.

In self-preservation, FV Adria then conducted evasive manoeuvres and increased its speed. Another fishing vessel, the FV Txori Argi was also operating in the vicinity at the time and assisted the FV Adria as the suspects continued to chase her. After approximately one hour, the suspects approached both fishing vessels and attacked them with a rocket-propelled grenade. The Private Armed Security Teams (PAST) on board the FV Adria and the FV Txori Argi responded, and the suspects retreated.

That same day, EU NAVFOR dispatched its Maritime Patrol Aircrafts (MPRAs) and conducted a regional search, through which they were able to successfully identify and track the captured mother ship.

On 23 April, in collaboration with its MPRAs, EU NAVFOR’s flagship ESPS NAVARRA was able to approach, intercept and board the captured fishing vessel. With the support of the PAST and EU NAVFOR’s various active assets in the region—including the frigate ESPS NAVARRA and MPRAs German JESTER and Spanish CISNE—Operation Atalanta was able to control the situation and prevent any further imminent attacks.

“This incident clearly demonstrates that piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia have not been eradicated,” said Operation Commander Rear Admiral Antonio Martorell Lacave in an interview. “The need for a strong maritime security presence in the High-Risk Area remains critical for the deterrence and prevention of future incidents and attacks.”

Following the attack, Operation Atalanta urged the maritime industry to remain vigilant across the High-Risk Area and to comply with recommended Best Management Practises for Protection against Somalia Based Piracy, as supported by EU NAVFOR’s Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa (MSCHOA). MSCHOA last updated the Best Management Practises for public reference in 2015, at the height of piracy attacks in the High-Risk Area.

Behind The Scenes

Lesser known to the public, however, was the fact that at the time of these attacks in April, Operation Atalanta was still in the midst of an important transition. Just three weeks before the attack—the first since October of last year—Operation Atalanta officially moved from its previous Operation Headquarters (OHQ) in Northwood, U.K., to its new OHQ in Rota, Spain. MSCHOA also moved from OHQ in Northwood to Brest, France, although it remains under command of OHQ in Rota. Additionally, the operation transferred command from Major General Charlie Stickland, UK Royal Marines, to Rear Admiral Antonio Martorell Lacave, Spanish Navy.

Lesser known to the public, however, was the fact that at the time of these attacks in April, Operation Atalanta was still in the midst of an important transition. Just three weeks before the attack—the first since October of last year—Operation Atalanta officially moved from its previous Operation Headquarters (OHQ) in Northwood, U.K., to its new OHQ in Rota, Spain. MSCHOA also moved from OHQ in Northwood to Brest, France, although it remains under command of OHQ in Rota. Additionally, the operation transferred command from Major General Charlie Stickland, UK Royal Marines, to Rear Admiral Antonio Martorell Lacave, Spanish Navy.

The handover and transfer of command was a careful process that lasted nearly a year in its entirety. After all arrangements for location, staffing and training were complete, the transitional phase also involved one month of parallel operational running between Northwood and Rota. However, one would never know it by the operational fluidity that the headquarters maintained throughout the process, and continues to demonstrate today. Highly skilled staff—some from the previous OHQ in Northwood, UK and some new to Operation Atalanta—maintained near perfect continuity throughout the transition.

Operation Atalanta Commander Rear Admiral Martorell Lacave says the manner in which Operation Atalanta handled this first piracy attack in its new OHQ is representative of the commitment and responsibility each branch of the operation feels to their duty.

“I am very confident in the capabilities of the staff in all branches of EU NAVFOR’s Operation and Force Headquarters,” he said. “As we have seen with this most recent incident, we continue to provide the same level and quality of operational outputs from Rota as were previously provided in Northwood.”

Source: eunavfor.eu

The European Community Shipowners’ Associations visits EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation Atalanta

Meeting reiterates: threat of piracy not eradicated off the Horn of Africa.

On 23 May, ECSA’s Maritime Security Working Group met with the EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation Atalanta at their operation headquarters in Rota, Spain.  

Representing the European shipping industry, the ECSA delegation met with the EU NAVFOR’s team to discuss the current state of piracy off the coast of Somalia. The delegation also visited the naval assets participating in Operation Atalanta. For the past ten years, EU NAVFOR has deterred and prevented acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia, protected vessels of the World Food Programme (WFP) and African Union Mission Somalia (AMISOM), and monitored acts of illegal fishing. 

While it is true that today the number of attacks is minimal, this is only a result of the industry’s implementation of Best Management Practices along with the combined action of different actors and organisations, notably the states in the region.

We know for a fact that pirate networks maintain the intent, the means and the capability to deploy and attack merchant vessels,” said R. Adm. Antonio Martorell Lacave. “It is up to us – military operations, coalitions and regional states – to uphold deterrence, operate in a flexible and agile manner and keep the seas safe.

Operation Atalanta has been a key element in the decrease of piracy attacks,” Flemming Dahl Jensen ECSA’s Maritime Security Working Group Chair mentioned. “We need to ensure there are sufficient resources allocated to guarantee its successful continuation.”

EU NAVFOR remains committed to deterring, preventing and suppressing piracy and emphasizes that the Maritime Industry must continue to adhere to BMP measures in order to maximize the safety of the ships and crews whilst transiting the high-risk area. 

The European shipowners expressed their support to EU NAVFOR Operation Atalanta and their close cooperation with other international actors. The shipping industry will continue to cooperate with the EU NAVFOR team to ensure that Somali-based piracy stays suppressed.

Source: ecsa.eu

Image via ECSA.