One of the highlights of the month took place between 23rd and 25th February when the Operation Commander paid an official visit to Rome in order to meet with the World Food Programme (WFP), the OHQ of EUNAVFOR Med IRINI and Italian officials. The visit provided the occasion to update all the parties on Atalanta’s future.
In his meeting with WFP Deputy Executive Director, Mr Amir Mahmoud Abdulla, the Operation Commander thanked the WFP for its flexibility in the particular context of the uncertainty regarding UNSCR 2608 but also for its participation in the 49th SHADE. The Operation Commander pointed out his commitment with the protection of WFP vessels, which are at the core of ATALANTA’s mandate.
The WFP acknowledged Atalanta for its commitment to ensure the freedom of navigation and for the huge difference made in the protection of the flow of humanitarian aid to Somalia but also to the regional hubs, mentioning the critical role of Djibouti in the flow to Yemen.
In his meeting with EUNAVFOR MED IRINI, Operation Commander, Rear Admiral Turchetto, the two Operation Commanders agreed on an enhanced cooperation in sharing information and experience for the benefit of better serving the final goals of both operations.
The visit was complemented with encounters with Italian officials from the Joint operational Command (C.O.V.I.) – Rear Admiral Valter Zappellini and Chief of the Navy, Admiral Enrico Credendino. Atalanta representative showed their appreciation for Italy’s efforts and received the assurances of the future commitment of their country towards the Operation.
On 1st of February, Atalanta attended EU-India Maritime Security Dialogue. The purpose of this dialogue is aligned with the Operation final goals: strengthening cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and, from the tactical standpoint, further increase interoperability. The meeting was co-chaired by the Director for Security and Defense Policy of the EEAS, Ms. Balfoort, and the Joint Secretary for Disarmament and International Security Affairs of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.
Atalanta maintains a long collaboration with India. Only in 18th – 19th June, the Indian navy conducted a joint maritime exercise along with Atalanta assets in the Gulf of Aden, based on the scenario of an anti-piracy operation. This event counted on the participation of the Indian frigate Trikand and four European vessels: Italian frigate Carabiniere, Spanish frigate Navarra, French amphibious assault helicopter carrier Tonnerre and French frigate Surcouf.
On 8th February, Colonel Caldarola, Head of Division of the Crisis Response Planning and Current Operations, was received by Atalanta’s Deputy Commander, Admiral Slaars, and Chief of Staff, Captain Torrecillas. The encounter provided a perfect opportunity to exchange views on the current state of the Operation and way ahead with regards to Atalanta’s executive secondary tasks. Without a doubt, this set of tasks, countering drug trafficking and implementing the weapons embargo on Somalia, are meant to play a defining role in Atalanta’s near future; moreover, after the early activation by the PSC of the anti-drug trafficking task, under the “catch and release” modality, with the assistance of French units in direct support.
On the same day, Atalanta’s OHQ received the visit of the candidates of the Spanish Senior Command Course. The briefing on the fight against piracy off the Coast of Somalia and further developments on Maritime Security was hosted by Atalanta’s Operation Commander, Admiral Núñez Torrente along with Atalanta’s Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff. Spain has been one of the Operations’ main contributors since 2009 and the knowledge about its details makes part of future Spanish Generals and Admirals’ formation.
On 5th February, Atalanta’s task force concluded Focused Operation “Artic Tern” off the Coast of Puntland, in the North of Somalia. For four days, EU NAVFOR monitored the area for illegal activities at sea in order to contribute to maritime security in the region. Atalanta grants particular importance to these Operations as they allow a direct contact with local populations, provide first-hand information about their needs and grant a clear understanding of the scenario in which the illegal activities are carried out.
On 6th February, the new Atalanta Force Commander, Commodore João Pereira, received Commanding Officer of ITS Bergamini, Commander, Luca Moro, on board Atalanta’s Flagship, ESPS Victoria. This kind of encounters assure an outstanding degree of coordination between unit of different navies, necessary for the smooth accomplishment of the duties assigned to Atalanta and are a living proof of the commitment to Atalanta of the different contributing nations.
On 10th February, before setting sail towards the Indian Ocean, the Commander of the frigate ESPS Canarias, Lieutenant Commander Rafael Samaniego, was received by Atalanta’s Operation Commander at the OHQ in Rota. The Canarias will take over as EU NAVFOR flagship mid-March. Both shared their views on the current Area of Operations and analysed the opportunities lying ahead for Atalanta to grow as a comprehensive maritime security provider.
Also, during the month of March the 40th Rotation of Command is planned to take place. For this purpose, the OHQ in Rota organised a Joint Mission Preparation. The Operation Commander and the Deputy Commander of Atalanta presented first orientations to Rear Admiral Fabrizio Bondi of the Italian Navy and his staff prior to their deployment as new Atalanta Force Commander on board the ITS frigate Bergamini.
On 13th February, during a port visit to Djibouti of Atalanta’s flagship ESPS Victoria, Commodore Pereira, Force Commander of EU NAVFOR was received by Major General Stéphane Dupont, Commander of the Joint Deployed French Forces in Djibouti and by Colonel Gennaro Scotto, Commanding Officer of the Italian Support base in the country. These encounters contributed to enhance the excellent existing relations with these two bases that provide important support to Atalanta’s activities. Taking advantage of their presence in Djibouti, the Force Commander also met with the Djiboutian Coast-Guard Commander in Chief and the Commander of the Djiboutian Navy. These encounters with local authorities serve to broaden the possibilities to improve collaboration and further strengthen maritime security awareness in the region with strategic partners.
During the course of the same visit, the Force Commander paid a visit to the Maritime Patrol Aircraft ATL2, deployed in Djibouti under Atalanta’s OPCdr OPCON. The French MPA joined the Operation earlier during the month and it provides EU NAVFOR essential information to assess the situation off the Horn of Africa. Together with Spanish P3 Cisne, these air assets play a fundamental role to detect and locate suspicious movements linked to illegal activities off the coast of Somalia as well as in red Sea.
On 14th February, during a port visit to Dar es Salaam, the commanding officer of ITS Bergamini, Commander Moro, hosted a meeting with M. Fanti, Head of the EU Delegation in Tanzania; the Italian Ambassador to Tanzania, M. Lombardi, representatives of other EU Embassies and from Tanzania’s People’s Defence Forces and Tanzanian Navy. The meeting provided the opportunity to resume the existing excellent relation with Tanzanian authorities, interrupted due to the renovation of the harbour area. Atalanta is looking forward to increasing the contacts in the near future with such an important regional player in the Area of Operations.
On 15th February, after one month on board ESPS Victoria, Commodore Pereira, Force Commander of UE NAVFOR, embarked on the new Atalanta’s flagship, ESPS Canarias. This ship had previously participated in Atalanta in 2019. A simple ceremony on board was held to give way to its new duties.
On 28th February, Commodore Pereira, held a high-level meeting with the Head of the EU Delegation to Somalia, Ambassador Tiina Intelmann; along with the Deputy Head of Mission of EUCAP Somalia and Deputy Mission Commander of EUTM Somalia. The meeting, on board ESPS Canarias, provided the opportunity to put in common points of view about the current context in which the three sister missions collaborate under the guidelines of the EU Integrated Approach on Somalia. This principle is one of the pillars of Atalanta’s mandate and is paramount for the effectiveness of the EU external action on the region. Focused Operation Inanga, in September 2021, provided a turning point in this commitment and Atalanta is willing to deepen in the enormous possibilities of this triangular collaboration.
Beside the Force Command flagship, the Spanish frigate ESPS Victoria (until 10.02.2022; succeeded by ESPS Canarias), and the MPRA CISNE, these assets have temporarily reinforced the Operation in Direct Support, i.e. under control of the Force Commander, or in Associated Support, when the asset remains under national command:
German frigate FGS Bayern (until 03.02.2022); Italian frigate ITS Bergamini (in direct support from 31.01 until 19.02.2022), French auxiliary vessel FS Loire (06–16.02.2022) and the minehunter FS Orion (since 26.02.2022); France has assigned also a MPR aircraft Bréguet Atlantic 2 (in direct support since 22.01 until 21.02.2022).
Our OHQ celebrated with the representatives of our contributing nations, Serbia and Lithuania their respective national days: Day of Restoration of the State of Lithuania and Statehood Day of Serbia. The commitment of their Governments is paramount for the good success of Atalanta in the way ahead and we can only have words of gratitude towards their professionalism and engagement.
Atalanta grants paramount importance to the development of Somalia’s capacities with the final goal of constructing a self-owned security structure. With this aim, Atalanta’s flagship Victoria conducted on the second week of February a Local Maritime Capacity Building activity in coordination with UNODC. The exercises served to improve the capacities of Fishery Protection Officers of the Somali Maritime Law Enforcement. These trainings focus on on-board operations, including life at sea, ship manoeuvers and capabilities, damage control, as well as briefings and practical demonstrations on how to conduct boarding operations.
It is not uncommon for Atalanta to perform beyond its strict mandate. On 22nd February, the Spanish Air Force 42th Orion Detachment of Atalanta, delivered 12 sewing machines to the women’s association “Solidarité feminine” in Djibouti. The donors, the Spanish association, “la Estela de Ayo”, gathered the funds for the donation from the selling of the book “Cuatro cartas para ti”, written by Ayo’s family, heirs of the late Spanish Air Force pilot dead in a plane crash.