The European Union (EU) naval task force off East Africa – EU NavFor Atalanta – notched up a first in combined operations recently when it worked with the Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre (RMIFC/Madagascar) and the Regional Co-ordination Operations Centre (RCOC/Seychelles).
The operation – named Marlin – was aimed at strengthening maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean through sustainable collaboration between states in the region and international partners. It contributed to implementation of a co-operation agreement between EU NavFor Operation Atalanta and the regional centres in December 2021, as part of developing the Western Indian Ocean maritime security architecture implemented by the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) through the EU-funded Regional Maritime Security Programme (MASE).
Operation Marlin focused on combating drug trafficking and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. It was executed in the Seychelles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The operation involved deployment of naval air assets, including Atalanta flagship ESPS Numancia (F83), with an AB212 helicopter and a Scan Eagle UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), the Seychelles Coast Guard patrol boat PS Etoile (P607) and a Seychelles Air Force Dornier 228 maritime patrol aircraft (MPA).
The joint operation made possible the detection and monitoring of more than 20 vessels in an area of about 150,000 km² thanks to information from the air assets. It remains an important step forward in structuring and strengthening technical and operational co-operation to reach optimum inter-operability a statement said.
According to the Indian Ocean Commission, it enabled the seven signatory states of the MASE agreement (Comoros, Djibouti, France, in the form of Reunion, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles) to benefit from the professional expertise of the European naval force and share best practices through their liaison officers in the two regional centres.
This new operation demonstrated new challenges associated with maritime operations. In addition to surveillance and sea control, this type of operation is a way to test, improve and reinforce the technical and human capabilities of the regional maritime security architecture to better respond to security challenges in the Western Indian Ocean in collaboration with countries and partners in the region in the long term.