From being a protector of food supplies destined for nutrition deprived Somalis, Operation Atalanta evolved into a broad-base maritime security provider.
The European Union (EU) naval operation in the north-western Indian Ocean and the Red Sea now has a task list that includes combating piracy and protecting vulnerable shipping to countering drug trafficking and participating in the al-Shabaab weapons embargo. Other duties are monitoring and reporting activities, related to illegal fishing, implementation of arms embargo in Somalia and charcoal trafficking, as well as training and operational activities with coastal states of the North Western Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. This is with an overall objective of contributing to a sustainable regional maritime security architecture.
This year, Spain and Italy integrated ships in the operation for long periods, acting as Atalanta flagships. Other direct (operational control delegated to EU NavFor) or associated support (share information and co-ordinate operations) among assets, both aerial and maritime. Developed during the life to date of the operation, this flexible participation allows EU and non-EU member states to contribute in the spirit of co-operation and mutual support, “which is at the core of the European Union” an Atalanta statement said.
The French Navy continuously provides warships, enhancing operational; capabilities. The Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) conducting the “Mission Jeanne D’Arc 23“, composed of the Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) Dixmude (L9015)and frigate La Fayette (F710) is one example, carrying out EU NavFor’s first anti-drugs operation in 2023 (more than a ton of narcotics seized worth over 37 million € in street value). Recently, the frigate Surcouf (F711) conducted a counter narcotics operation, seizing more than two tons of hashish, worth around 20 million € in street value. The associated support provided by the minehunter Andromede (M643) enhanced Atalanta visibility, with the first port visit of a vessel under the EU NavFor flag in Jordan. Other warships and the naval research vessel Beautemps-Beaupre (A758) also participated, increasing surveillance and reaction capacity to maritime security incidents in the extended area of operations.
The commitment of the EU and non-EU member states participating in the Operation is paramount to fulfil the EU mandate and build a maritime security structure “in the spirit of de-confliction, fair co-operation and mutual trust” the statement reads.