New Irini force commander

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The European Union (EU) naval deployment in the Mediterranean Sea – Operation Irini – has a new man at the helm of its multinational task force.

He is Commodore Kostantinos Bakalakos of the Hellenic Navy,

one of three services comprising the Hellenic Armed Forces. He took over command from Rear Admiral Valentino Rinaldi of the Marina Militare (Italian Navy).

The Force Commander has at his disposal air and naval units operating off the coast of Libya, as well as Irini operational bases and logistical support structures ashore.

He reports directly to the Operation Commander and, supported by a multinational headquarters staff, embarks on Irini’s flagship to exercise tactical command and control of the force from sea.

“Throughout a semester of intense activity in the European Task Force, Rinaldi led with passion, determination and professionalism the men and women assigned to Irini Force Headquarters. Under his command the force reached in June a peak of four naval units and six air assets deployed in support to Irini from different EU Member States. The Task Force effectively patrolled the area of operation, implementing the UN (United Nations) arms embargo and supporting international efforts to fight the smuggling of oil products from and to Libya as well as people trafficking,” an Irini statement reads.

Greek frigate HS Aegean (F46) has taken over flagship duty from ITS San Giusto (L 9894). Both flagship and Force Commander are assigned on a six-month rotation by Italy and Greece.

Operation Irini, launched on 31 March 2020, is an EU contribution to the efforts of the International Community for security and peace in Libya. Operation Irini has secondary tasks, including gathering information for the Security Council to prevent illegal oil exports from Libya and human trafficking in the region. To date Irini has produced 42 reports for the UN Security Council.

The operation relies on the active support of 23 European member states. They provide ships, aircraft and personnel. Currently, despite a period of international crisis, two naval units, six aircraft and over 600 people are assigned to Irini, with additional ships and aircraft participating on a non-continuous basis.

Since establishment Irini has investigated 12 000 merchant vessels, conducted over 550 friendly visits and executed 26 military inspections.