The Netherlands Hands Over Force Command Of The EU Naval Force Counter Piracy Operation To FranceDecember 7, 2013 - 10:18
On Friday 6 December, Commodore Peter Lenselink (Royal Netherlands Navy) handed over the Force Command of EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Somalia Operation Atalanta to Rear Admiral Hervé Bléjean (French Navy) during a Change of Command ceremony held on board HNLMS Johan de Witt in the Port of Djibouti.
Deputy Operation Commander of EU Naval Force Rear Admiral Jean Martens presided over the handover. The event was also attended by the Head of Mission for EUCAP Nestor, Mr Etienne de Poncins and the Chairman of EU Military Committee, General Patrick de Rousiers.
The outgoing Force Commander, Commodore Lenselink, reflected on his time at sea in the flagship. “During the past four months, the European Union Naval Force has continued to be at the forefront in deterring and disrupting piracy. We have provided 100% protection to World Food Programme, AMISOM and other vulnerable shipping and contributed to the monitoring of fishing activities. With EU member state warships and aircraft, together with the Autonomous Vessel Protection Detachment, we have helped to keep the seas safer for seafarers and secured maritime trade routes”
The Commodore also stated that counter piracy operations have reached what he calls ‘the next level’. “In recent months the EU Naval Force has been working with the other EU missions in the Horn of Africa: EUCAP Nestor and EUTM Somalia. This has enabled close liaison and training to take place at sea with regional states, including Senior Maritime Security courses, a legal and police seminar, together with Somaliland Coast Guard training. Furthermore, the EU Naval Force flagship hosted the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia during the Piracy Week in Djibouti, with 180 delegates from more than 20 countries and organizations, such as the United Nations, NATO and EU, embarking the ship. We also hosted on board HNLMS Johan de Witt a very special visit from the President of the Somali Federal Government, His Excellency Hassan Sheikh Mohammed.”
The new Force Commander, Rear Admiral Hervé Bléjean spoke about his commitment to maintain the pressure on pirate activity. “Pirate attacks have reduced sharply and over the next four months we will remain shoulder to shoulder with the other counter piracy forces to ensure that there is no safe haven for pirates to operate at sea. Whilst I welcome the decline in pirate attacks, I also acknowledge that the piracy threat is not over, as the conditions in Somalia have not improved sufficiently enough. We must adapt with flexibility and agility to the evolving political, operational and tactical circumstances. As part of the European Union’s efforts to strengthen stability and security in the region, I will continue to support and cooperate with staff from EUCAP Nestor and the EU Training Mission Somalia.”
The Deputy Operational Commander, Rear Admiral Jean Martens added “It was with great pleasure that I presided over the Force HQ handover today. I would like to thank Commodore Lenselink for his considerable efforts and achievements. As Rear Admiral Hervé Bléjean takes command, I know that the EU Naval Force will continue to apply pressure to the pirates and help build a more stable Somalia.”
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