FGS Brandenburg is the second German naval vessel to be assigned flagship duties of Operation Atalanta, the European Union naval force tasked with protecting World Food Programme (WFP) vessels delivering aid to Somalia.
This is the operation’s primary mission and it has secondary tasks including detecting and preventing acts of piracy and armed robbery off the Somali coast and monitoring the internationally recommended transit corridor (IRTC) in the Gulf of Aden and along the Somali coast.
Brandenburg has been on station for three months and in the last two months has logged 18 000 nautical miles (over 30 000 kilometres) patrolling the operational area.
This continued presence at sea has seen the frigate conduct replenishment at sea (RAS) four times. The German tanker FGS Rhon and US Navy vessels were the supply ships.
When the ship comes into contact with a dhow or other small vessel a “friendly approach” is conducted.
“We have done about 20 friendly approaches in the last two months. We use these talks with local fishermen and merchants to find out about their daily routine and to get to know the local business structure along the coast and on land. It is important for us to find out what role piracy plays in the lives of the local population. Additionally, friendly approaches are a way to inform the local seafarer community on the objectives of Operation Atalanta,” Brandenburg captain Commander Gerald Liebich said.
Early on in her deployment, Brandenburg’s boarding team approached an Indian dhow after a distress signal was picked up by a maritime patrol reconnaissance aircraft. Speaking to the ship’s master boarding team members established the dhow had been board just two days previously by suspected pirates.
“The constant presence of naval vessels and maritime patrol aircraft forced the suspected pirates to flee the dhow.
“This incident showed that the threat of piracy still exists. However the presence of international naval forces has prevented any successful hijacking of a merchant ship over the past two year in the EUNavFor arena of operations,” Liebich said.
Members of the ship’s company have also taken part in local maritime capacity building. This saw training with Tanzanian naval and police forces in May on evidence conservation and first aid.
The Operation Atalanta flagship also worked escort duty for a WFP chartered vessel carrying 3 000 ton of board from Djibouti to the capital of Puntland, Bosaso late last month.
To ensure Brandenburg could keep a close watch of the merchant vessel, the frigate matched her speed.
“This meant we travelled at eight knots and the WFP vessel was safe from attack at all times during the transit,” Liebich said.