Half-time for FGS BrandenburgJuly 1, 2014 - 10:43
Since 6 April 2014, FGS Brandenburg has been patrolling areas in the Somali Basin and the Gulf of Aden as the flagship of EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR). FGS Brandenburg is the second German ship assigned as flagship of Operation Atalanta. Their task is to protect vessels of the World Food Programme (WFP) delivering aid to displaced persons in Somalia as well as African Union Mission on Somalia shipping and to deter, prevent and repress acts of piracy and armed robbery off the Somali coast.
As a unit of the deployed task force off the Horn of Africa numerous tasks have to be dealt with: monitoring the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) in the Gulf of Aden and along the Somali coast line (focusing particularly in areas with known pirate camps). This is usually done in coordination with the Maritime Patrol Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA) of the EU Naval Force stationed in Djibouti or in the Seychelles. Also behaviour of local mariners and fishermen is surveyed to react on any occurring irregularities indicating pirate activity.
After nearly three months in the area of operation the Commanding Officer of FGS Brandenburg, Commander Gerald Liebich, takes some time to assess their time at sea to date:
“During the last two months we have sailed about 18,000 nautical miles (more than 30,000 kilometres). In order to maintain a continued presence in the area of operation, we have conducted four Replenishment At Sea (RAS) with our tanker FGS Rhön and two with US Navy suppliers to sustain us.”
When the ship comes in contact with a dhow or other small vessels, we conduct a “Friendly Approach.”
“We have done about 20 Friendly Approaches within the last two months. We use these talks with local fishermen and merchants to find out about their daily routine and to get to know the local business structure along the coast and on land. It is important for us to find out what role piracy plays in the lives of the local population.” Additionally, Friendly Approaches are one way to inform the local seafarer community on the objectives of Operation Atalanta.
Early in their deployment the Boarding Team approached an Indian Dhow because a distress signal was seen from one of the MPRAs. When the team talked to the ship’s master, they found out that the dhow was held by pirates just two days ago. Due to constant presence of MPRAs and navy vessels the pirates eventually fled ashore.
“This incident shows us, that the threat from piracy still exists, although the presence of the international Naval Forces has prevented any successful hijacking of merchant ships within the last two years.”
Members of the ship have also taken part in Local Maritime Capacity Building. “In May we trained with Police and Naval Forces in Tanzania. The Main focus in that exercise was conservation of evidence and first aid training.”
“And in June we conducted an Search and Rescue (SAR) exercise with the Seychelles Coast Guard and other relevant local authorities, focusing on rescue and evacuation measures.”
“I think we’ve presented a good platform as flagship for the EU Force Commander, Rear Admiral Jürgen zur Mühlen, and his international staff. We have all cooperated very closely and well together.”
“My ship’s company has done a very good job, with great professionalism and motivation.. I am convinced that the second half will be just as successful and competent as the first.”
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