Italian admiral heads Op Atalanta force

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The new man at the helm of the European Union (EU) naval force off East Africa is an Italian rear admiral with, as is custom, a ship from his country taking over flag duties for Operation Atalanta.

Rear Admiral Franceso Saladino took command of task force 465 from Portuguese Commodore Rogério Martins de Brito, in command since December last year. The change of command parade was in Djibouti port on the Spanish frigate Victoria (F82) with EU NavFor Deputy Operations Commander, Rear Admiral Eric Dousson in attendance.

The parade heard the situation in Atalanta’s area of operation (AoO) was “very active” in the past few months with piracy on the rise.

“We are fully aware of the importance of Operation Atalanta which can provide a significant contribution to stabilisation in the region improving security. At the same time, we feel a high sense of responsibility for the relevance of our involvement and this will motivate us to do our best”, said Saladino after taking command. He will lead the 46th rotation of Operation Atalanta forces with the Italian warship, ITS Federico Martinengo (F596), as flagship.

Force Headquarters, under command of the Operation Headquarters in Rota, Spain, is an embarked headquarters forward deployed to Atalanta AoO, responsible for tactical command of all EU NavFor multinational assets in the area. Its main responsibility is operations at operational and tactical level, under the Atlanta operational mandate and Operation Headquarters guidance.

Currently, there are three ships supporting to the operation:  French warships FS Alsace (D656) and FS Languedoc (D653) and ITS Duilio (D554) from Italy. Spanish frigate ESPS Canarias (F86) will join the operation in the coming weeks.

In recent months, there have been multiple ship hijackings by Somali pirates, and dozens of attacks against shipping in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea by Houthi rebels.