EUNAVFOR Atalanta and both the Regional Maritime Information Fusion Center (RMIFC/Madagascar) and the Regional Coordination Operations Center (RCOC/Seychelles) conducted their first joint operation from September 21 to 24. This first Operation, named MARLIN, was aimed at strengthening maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean through sustainable collaboration between the States of the region and international partners. It contributed to the implementation of the cooperation agreement signed between EUNAVFOR Operation ATALANTA and the two regional centers in December 2021, as part of the development of the Western Indian Ocean Maritime Security Architecture implemented by the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) through the EU-funded Regional Maritime Security Program (MASE).
Operation MARLIN focused on combating drug trafficking and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing). It was executed in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Seychelles. The operation involved the deployment of several naval air assets, such as the ATALANTA Flag Ship ESPS NUMANCIA, with a helicopter AB212 and a SCAN EAGLE UAV, the Seychelles Coast Guard patrol boat PS ETOILE and the Seychelles Air Force maritime patrol aircraft DORNIER 228.
The joint operation made it possible to detect and monitor more than 20 vessels in an area of about 150,000 km² thanks to the information provided by the air assets. It remains an important step forward in structuring and strengthening the necessary technical and operational cooperation to reach an optimal level of interoperability.
According to the Indian Ocean Commission, it has also enabled the seven signatory states of the MASE agreement (Comoros, Djibouti, France (Reunion), Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles) to benefit from the professional expertise of the European Naval Force and to share best practices through their liaison officers based in the two regional centres.
This new operation has demonstrated the new challenges associated to maritime operations. In addition to surveillance and sea control, this type of operation is a way to test, improve and reinforce the technical and human capabilities of the regional maritime security architecture in order to better respond to the security challenges in the maritime spaces of the Western Indian Ocean in collaboration with countries and partners in the region in the long term.