Stopping arms reaching Libya – Op Irini at work

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“Another day, another inspection” could well be what the men and women detached to the European Union (EU) Operation Irini in the Mediterranean Sea think. This part of their tasking is essential to ensuring the United Nations (UN) arms embargo on Libya is enforced.

The mechanics of inspecting suspicious – and other – vessels follows a well-drilled routine, even when weather conditions are not favourable.

This was the case with a recent inspection, reported by Irini as happening after two days in rough sea and strong winds with “still marginal sea conditions” a boarding team from HS Navarinon, the Greek Navy platform currently serving as Irini flagship, was inserted by helicopter onto a suspicious merchant vessel.

Once aboard the Special Forces team secured the ship, verified its documentation and inspected, according to UN Resolution 2292. This saw several containers suspected to be loaded with unlawful material opened. Nothing suspicious was discovered with the merchant vessel released and allowed to proceed to her next port of call.

An Irini statement complemented the boarding team’s professionalism noting the unopposed boarding took just five hours in total. “It was safely executed in accordance with Task Force 464 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).”

EUNavFor MED Operation IRINI (Greek for “peace”) was launched on 31 March 2020 and extended to 31 March 2023. Its core task is implementation of the UN arms embargo on Libya using aerial, satellite and maritime assets. The mission is mandated to inspect vessels on the high seas off Libya suspected to be carrying arms or related material to and from Libya in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2292 of 2016 in addition to monitoring violations via aerial and land routes.

As secondary tasks, Irini monitors and gathers information on illicit petroleum, crude oil exports and refined petroleum products from Libya; contributes to capacity building and training of the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy; contributes to disrupting the “business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks” through information gathering and aerial patrolling.