Interview with Rear Admiral Thomas E. P. Jugel on handover of EU NAVFOR Force CommanderDecember 10, 2011 - 12:18
On departure from the Operation ATALANTA area of operations, the Force Commander, Admiral Jugel gave the following interview:
Under your command, Germany for the first time provided the flagship for Operation ATALANTA. What is your personal summary?
“I do think, in all modesty, it was a great success. The primary mission was completely accomplished, with humanitarian aid of the World Food Programme reaching the ports of the region without damage, thanks to the protection afforded by ATALANTA. Moreover, we also managed to reduce piracy. Despite an ever-increasing number of pirate attacks, their success rate in the theatre of operations during this season was as low as seldom before. The German contribution, which consisted not only of German command and frigate BAYERN as the flagship, but also of frigate KOELN and the ORION aircraft, was certainly of key importance for the success.”
Several international task forces operate simultaneously off the Horn of Africa for a common goal, i.e. to fight piracy. How do they cooperate?
“Here, you have touched upon an important aspect. The European Union makes a substantial anti-piracy contribution, but it is not alone in its military campaign. There is an excellent cooperation with other maritime forces, mainly of NATO and the Coalition Maritime Forces (CMF). Furthermore, close contact has been maintained to other naval forces not committed to a coalition, such as Chinese and Russian units. Our mandates may not be fully identical, but we all pull together.”
Can you give us an idea of how the different ships of different nations are actually coordinated?
“Let me answer this question by giving you two examples. According to an agreement, I was entrusted with coordinating all military operations of EU, NATO and CMF in the Somali Basin. My objective was to replace the informal exchange of information by a genuine synchronisation of operational and tactical activities. That objective was fully achieved – planning and conduct of such activities have been continuously synchronised in detail with regard to place and time. Moreover, independently operating warships in certain cases declared their willingness to escort merchant ships carrying humanitarian goods.”
So can we say that, in the last four months, Operation ATALANTA has successfully reduced piracy off the Horn of Africa?
“Certainly, ATALANTA has substantially contributed to this success. But besides the military activities, there have been other very successful anti-piracy efforts which must not be forgotten. I am talking about the industry, shipping companies, and masters of merchant ships and their increasingly responsible behaviour. Fortunately, recommended physical protective measures have been increasingly applied and there are less ships which are not complying with Best Management Practice. Armed private security teams can also help to deter pirates, as long as they are sufficiently qualified and perhaps even certified.”
International media have criticised the fact that suspected pirates have been sent back to Somalia. Do you understand that it is hard for the general public to accept that course of action?
“Of course, I understand that it is simply frustrating to be forced to set alleged pirates free because there is no chance of a successful prosecution. However, to motivate my soldiers, I would like to point out the following: Given the current number of more than 200 innocent hostages taken by pirates and held under inhumane conditions, every single act of kidnapping prevented by ATALANTA and every hostage rescue operation gives a positive answer to the question of meaning. That is all the motivation we need.”
From your personal perspective, where do you see a need for action and development to make a long-term success of the mission?
“For years there has been consensus among all commentators that maritime forces only fight the symptoms of piracy. They argue that the problem can only be solved ashore in Somalia. I unreservedly agree with that analysis. What we need is a holistic approach, the much-cited “comprehensive approach” to achieve any long-term effect. For Operation ATALANTA it will, in future, be necessary to further provide the capabilities required to further implement and operationally develop robust anti-piracy measures.”
Irrespective of your success as a naval commander, did you go through difficult moments?
“During my time as Force Commander more robust anti-piracy measures were taken for the first time. For example, freeing hostages against pirate resistance does involve certain risks as do disruptions of Pirate Action Groups at sea. I am all the more happy that I could bring home all members of my task force safe and sound.”
After a more than four-month tour of duty, what are you personally looking forward to most?
“Most of all, I am looking forward to my family and to weekends that deserve being called weekends.”
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