On 7th of July, the Operation Commander welcomed General Robert Brieger, Chair of the EU Military Committee, in Djibouti. General Brieger paid his first visit to two units of EU NAVFOR ATALANTA that are permanently based in Djibouti, the ORION Detachment with its Maritime Patrol Aircraft and the Support Element to ATALANTA (SEA). Their continued presence in Djibouti, one of the three host countries of ATALANTA, remains crucial for the Operation.
General Brieger had also the opportunity to visit the Spanish frigate “Numancia”, which was on port call for replenishment.
The Operation Commander provided him and the Head of the EU Delegation to Djibouti, H.E. Ambassador Aidan O'Hara, an update on the state of play of the operation.
General Brieger took the opportunity to thank all ATALANTA members for their effort and commitment towards the mandate given by the European Union.
During General Brieger’s meeting with the Commander of the French Forces in Djibouti (COMFOR FFDj), the OpCdr took the opportunity to bid farewell to Major General Stephane Dupont and thank him for the continuous support. France is currently renegotiating its Defense Treaty with Djibouti, including the use of several facilities in the territory of Djibouti, which host also ATALANTA units or are being used by them. The Commanders had an exchange about the growing influence of China in Djibouti.
For the first time in person, the Operation Commander met Major General Jami C. Shawley, the new Commanding General of the US Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (CJTF HOA). He thanked General Shawley for the permanent support and the close cooperation between EU NAVFOR and CJTF HOA. For example, CJTF HOA Special Forces and ATALANTA’s SOMTU (Special Operation Maritime Task Unit) units conducted recently a Personnel Recovery exercise together in June.
On 19th of July, Operation Commander met the Chair of the Political Security Council, Ambassador Delphine Pronk. He then presented an update on Operation Atalanta to the PSC. He highlighted the achieved progress on the implementation of the new mandate, which reaffirmed its role as “the main tool of Naval Diplomacy of the EU in the Indian Ocean”. To this respect, the Operations Commander thanked the European External Action Service’s efforts to attain a quick and reliable procedure for the “Legal Finish” that will allow the handover of arms and drug trafficking suspects to regional authorities. Furthermore, he highlighted that a comprehensive and solid Legal Finish will enable Force Contributing Nations, other than France, to perform the task.
In relation to the current international situation, the Commander reminded that UN had called for an urgent increase in humanitarian assistance to prevent food crisis in the region.
Along with these tasks, the EU NAVFOR – Operation ATALANTA followed up with one of its main efforts to prevent, deter and suppress piracy, which nowadays has been contained.
On 20th of July, the Operation Commander briefed the EU Military Committee on ATALANTA’s midyear review. Operation Atalanta had progressed on the implementation of new mandate tasks, received in December 2020. The new mandate includes an anti-narcotics task, which was activated in February. In March and April eight flagless dhows were apprehended and narcotics worth of estimated of 200 million EUR were seized. This action, undertaken by the French Navy LHD Mistral and the frigate Floreal in direct support to Operation Atalanta, implied the identification of 58 suspects and the destruction of the narcotics. Despite the expiry of the UN Security Council Resolution against piracy off the coast of Somalia on 3rd of March, ATALANTA was able to protect 32 WFP vessels in its area of operation, 7 of them bound for Somalia and 18 for Yemen, which ensured the safe delivery of more than 800 thousand tons of humanitarian aid.
The OpCdr used his visit to Brussels for a number of other meetings, inter alia with the Managing Director for Asia and Pacific, and the Military Representatives of Australia and Spain, and the Spanish Ambassador to the PSC.
The same days, Operation ATALANTA’s Chief of Staff, Assistant Chief of Staff for Future Operations (ACOS FOPS), and International Shipping Advisor travelled to the HQ of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) in Manama, Bahrain, to meet its new Chief of Staff. On the agenda were talks about the coordination and cooperation between these two key naval partners.
On 7th of July, the Political Security Committee (PSC) of the European Council appointed Italian Rear Admiral Riccardo Marchió as new Force Commander of EU NAVFOR Operation Atalanta. He is very familiar with this command and the AOO as he had already served as Force Commander from August to December 2020. He relieved Rear Admiral Fabrizio Bondi who led TF465 since March. During his command, Operation Atalanta conducted successfully its first counter-narcotics operations. We thank Admiral Bondi for his outstanding performance as Force Commander and wish him all the best for his future.
Whenever possible and as part of its day-to-day tactical-level activities, TF465 conducts Join Activities at Sea with warships from partner countries in a shared Area of Operation, such as the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), Japan, the Republic of Korea, and regional countries, e.g. Oman. This month has seen a number of these Joint Activities in order to enhance cooperation and inter-operability that are key for a successful partnership and a maximum of effectiveness. They are also an evident demonstration of the shared commitment to providing maritime security.
ITS Fasan conducted a Joint Activity at Sea with the British mine-hunter HMS Penzance on 2nd of July, and with the destroyer USS Momsen on 13th of July. ITS Fasan, ESPS Numancia, and ES MPRA Cisne practised cross-deck operations with destroyer JS Harusame of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Forces, and destroyer ROKS Dae Jo-yeong of the South Korean navy on 19th of July. On 24th of July, ESPS Numancia performed a long-distance communication exercise with the French frigate FS Surcouf.
During a port visit in Djibouti on 16th of July, ESP Numancia carried out a training on fire-fighting on board of ships for staff of the Djiboutian Coast Guard. These activities a part of a special training programme that are performed on a regular basis to improve the capabilities of regional maritime security units.
On 19 July 2022, EU NAVFOR ATALANTA received from the Somali Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation a request for assistance to a ship in distress.
After a complete propulsion and power plant failure, the MV ANATOLIAN was dead in water in heavy seas in the Gulf of Aden, north of Puntland coast for about a week. Earlier, a commercial tugboat refused to assist her due to adverse weather conditions and the state of the sea. Attempts by the crew and a US navy ship to repair the engine and electricity system had failed. ESPS NUMANCIA and the US navy vessel provided food and drinking water to the MV ANATOLIAN crew. On 21st of July, ESPS NUMANCIA started to tow the ro-ro-ship MV ANATOLIAN to the Somali port of Bosasso, after sea conditions had improved. In the morning hours of 22nd of July, they arrived in Bosasso and NUMANCIA handed over the responsibility for the broken vessel to the Port Authorities. During the towing operation, ESPS NUMANCIA maintained permanent communication with the Federal and local Somali authorities. Our colleagues from EUCAP Somalia’s Field Office in Garowe (Puntland) played an instrumental role in this exchange. This operation proved again EU NAVFOR ATALANTA’s commitment to the safety and security of seafarers and our support to the government of Somalia.
Also on 21st of July, Operation ATALANTA met another request by the Somali government and conducted with its MPRA a search flight for two Egyptian seamen who were missing after their ship had sunk 180 nm off the Somali coast on 14th of July. Regretfully, no traces of the lost sailors were spotted. Also in this case the Federal Government of Somalia authorised Operation ATALANTA to enter territorial waters and airspace of Somalia.
Besides the Force Command flagship, Italian frigate ITS “Virginio Fasan” and the Spanish Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft 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: (from left to right) Italian frigate ITS “Fasan” (in Direct Support from 17.06., Force Command flagship since 22.06.2022), Spanish frigates ESPS “Numancia” (in Direct Support since 20.06.2022), and the French frigate FS “Surcouf” (in Associated Support since 23.07.2022). ATALANTA’s MPRA CISNE has left the AOO for a longer maintenance period on 24th of July.
Together with our colleagues we celebrated Montenegro’s Statehood Day on 13th of July, France’s Bastille Day on 14th of July, Columbia’s Independence Day on 20th of July, and Belgium’s National Day on 21st of July.