On Tuesday 4th December in Djibouti, EU NAVFOR’s Force Commander, Rear Admiral Alfonso Pérez de Nanclares handed back command of Operation Atalanta Forces to the Operational Headquarters. The Change of Command Ceremony took place during a reception held on board ESPS Castilla on the occasion of 10 years of continued presence of EU NAVFOR in the Western Indian Ocean.
The Head of the EU Delegation to Djibouti, Ambassador Adam Kulach, highlighted in his keynote address the successes achieved by Operation Atalanta and thanked the Republic of Djibouti for hosting EU forces and collaborating closely with the operation. He stressed that maritime security has always been an important issue for the EU as the waters from Suez to Socotra are carrying more than $800 billion of annual trade. The Ambassador highlighted that “the recent extension of the mandate of Operation Atalanta is a clear signal that the EU remains committed to uphold freedom of navigation and I am sure that over the next two years the force will build upon the achievements reached so far.”
Over the last four months, Rear Admiral Nanclares commanded warships, maritime patrol aircraft and autonomous vessel protection detachments on board World Food Programme vessels to contribute to the free flow of commerce through the Indian Ocean and to protect the delivery of humanitarian aid into Somalia.
During his command, the Force Commander has overseen various operations conducted close to the Somali coast to deter pirate activities and to support the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation as well as EUCAP Somalia to enable local Somali fishing communities to enhance their capabilities whilst at the same time increasing the understanding of local law enforcement agencies. These operations were complemented by interactions with local security forces in Bosasso and Mogadishu. The Force Commander took the opportunity on a regular basis to inform Somali authorities such as the Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Gulaid and the Puntland Minister of Transport, Saeed Mohamed Rageh, on EU NAVFOR activities.
Reflecting on the last 10 years, the Deputy Commander of EU NAVFOR, Rear Admiral Giuseppe Rapese, highlighted that although pirate attacks still occur, commercial shipping can transit the region in relative safety, knowing that naval forces are present and able to assist if necessary. He went on to say: “Piracy is suppressed, not eradicated. It was this Force Headquarters, which reacted timely after the last attack to ensure that maritime security was restored in the area. Alfonso, you and your units ensured that pirates’ equipment would have been no longer available for any further use. You have all my respect for the appropriate measures taken which unequivocally boosted our deterrence function”.
In his address to the audience, Rear Admiral Nanclares stressed that during his tour he continued to foster cooperation, coordination and the sharing information with all other forces and agencies present in the area. Close relationships established over the last 10 years were signalled by the presence of political and military authorities present in Djibouti including Captain Ali Al-Rashidi, Kuwait Navy, Commander of Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) counter piracy Task Force 151 based in Bahrain and also General Eric Gernez commander of the French Forces in Djibouti who host the German and the Spanish MPRA squadron.