The handover ceremony of EU NAV FOR Tactical Command, Operation ATALANTA took place in Djibouti, 6 April 2009. Commodore Antonios Papaioannou (Hellenic Navy) handed over to Captain Juan Garat Carame (Spanish Navy).
The ceremony was attended by the Deputy Operational Commander Admiral Labonne (FN), the Deputy Ambassador of E.U. & France, Mr Berlin, the Commander of the French Forces in Djibouti, Brigadier General AF Leffort, His Reverence the Orthodox Bishop of Axomi (Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti) Petros, the Commander of Frigates Command Commodore K. Tsetis (HN), the Spanish Rear Admiral Javier Franco, the Consuls of Greece and Spain in Djibouti, Ms Georgalis and Mr Liorente, as well as representatives of the EU and Djibouti authorities.
In his address, during the ceremony, the Force Commander, Commodore A. Papaioannou(HN), referred to the significant work performed during the four month period by the EU NAV FOR, which patrolled the Somali coasts. A total number of 3000 men and women, 14 warships and 2 aircraft cooperated under the Command of the Greek Commodore, in the Aden gulf area, while 130000 tons of food aid were safely delivered to the Somali population by the World Food Program ships. In detail, there were 250 verification calls to merchant ships, while there was a response to 154 SOS signals. 33 suspected fishing boats and 4 suspected pirate ships were approached. 9 ships were boarded (2 of them during the night), while one pirate ship was destroyed. In one incident, humanitarian assistance was supplied to a ‘human trafficking’ boat and twice, medical assistance to 2 merchant ships. 25 pirates were arrested, 17 of whom were armed. Thanks to the deterrent presence and the activities of the EU NAV FOR, acts of piracy have been reduced by 95%, compared to the total number of piracy incidents reported before the operation launch.
The new Commander, Captain Juan Garat Carame, asked the Force personnel to keep working as enthusiastically and efficiently as before, while he thanked warmly his predecessor, Commodore A. Papaioannou for the excellent work he accomplished and assured him, that he would “follow his footsteps”.
The Deputy Operational Commander Admiral Labonne, stressed out the role played by the Hellenic Navy EUNAVFOR Commander in forging strong ties in terms of cooperation and coordination between the European Force and the naval forces of other countries (Russia, China, India and CTF 151), that patrolled the waters off the Somali coast.
Finally, Admiral Labonne stressed the importance of the contribution of Commodore Papaioannou, so that the European Union mission acquires a dominant role in countering piracy.
The ATALANTA operation is the first EU-led military operation, conducted in the framework of the European Union Security and Defence Policy, activated in conformity with the 1816/2 June 2008 resolution of the UN Security Council, on preventing acts of piracy off the Somali coast and the determination of the EU Civil Security Committee to carry out the operation in order to :
• Protect and ensure humanitarian aid delivering
• Keep sea communication routes open to navigation
The strategic objectives of the operation are as follows:
• Political : contribution to safe sea transport
• Politico-military: deterrence of acts of piracy and armed robbery, enhancement of navigation security, protection of WFP vessels delivering humanitarian aid to the Somali ports
“EU OHQ Northwood” has been selected to be the operational headquarters, while Commodore A. Papaioannou of the Hellenic Navy undertook first Command of the Force for the first four month period His successor, the Spanish Navy commander will in his turn give his post to the Dutch commander.
Greece took command of the Force in conformity with the decision of the 15th Session/12.11.2008 of the Governmental Council on Foreign Policy and National Defence. The initial duration of the operation is one year from its establishment.
The area of operations extends up to 500 nautical miles off the coasts of Somalia, Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania, Eritrea, Yemen and the south coast of Oman, as far as the meridian at latitude 60o to the East in the Indian Ocean, and the sea line joining Eritrea-Sudan and Yemen-Saudi Arabia in the Red Sea.
The region where the pirates operate covers at least 1.5 million square nautical miles in the ocean, which requires additional contribution, in means and equipment, to counter piracy and similar illegal activities.
The following states have contributed to the Force :
• Greece: one (1) frigate (“PSARA”), with one helicopter. (Onboard “PSARA”, the ship the Command Staff has been hosted)
• France: one (1) frigate, with one helicopter
• Spain: one (1) frigate, with one helicopter and a maritime patrol aircraft
• Italy: one (1) frigate, with one helicopter
The following forces are also operating in the area of operation in an anti-piracy mission :
1. CTF 151 : a combined maritime force under US command
2. ALINDIEN : a French maritime force in the Indian Ocean
3. a Russian maritime force
4. a Chinese maritime force
5. an Indian surface unit
6. a Malaysian surface unit, and
7. a Saudi Arabian surface unit