HMCS Vancouver Accomplishes Mediterranean Sea Mission
Heading west through the Strait of Gibraltar and leaving the gateway to the Mediterranean behind, HMCS Vancouver begins the first leg of her homeward journey and ends a successful tour of nearly six months of NATO duty in the Mediterranean Sea.
Vancouver left Esquimalt, B.C., on July 10, 2011 to relieve HMCS Charlottetown on Operation Mobile, Canada’s contribution to Operation Unified Protector, NATO’s mission to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas in Libya. Vancouver’s main tasks were to facilitate the movement of legitimate traffic and humanitarian aid into and out of Libyan ports and help enforce the no-fly zone imposed by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 of March 17, 2011.
Operation Mobile was a historic experience for the Esquimalt-based frigate and her crew. Over about two months on station in Libya’s territorial waters, Vancouver conducted three boardings and more than 160 hails. Finally, in late October, Vancouver monitored the front-line action in Sirte, scene of the last major battle of the Libyan conflict, watching in real time as the Gadhafi regime collapsed. Operation Unified Protector ceased, its work done, on October 31, 2011.
“I have no doubt in my mind that there are Libyans alive today who would not be if this ship and crew had not been here,” said Commander Bradley Peats, the commanding officer of Vancouver. “We stood shoulder to shoulder with our NATO partners, and this Canadian warship and this crew played a crucial role in protecting Libyan civilians and in the success of Operation Unified Protector.”
On November 20, 2011, the Minister of National Defence announced that Canada would maintain a naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea throughout 2012.
This new initiative gave Vancouver a new assignment: Task Force Endeavour, the formation conducting Operation Active Endeavour, the NATO counter-terrorism effort in the Mediterranean Sea. NATO launched Operation Active Endeavour in October 2001 under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Charter to support the United States in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Over nearly 10 weeks with Task Force Endeavour, Vancouver operated in NATO-assigned “patrol boxes” – areas of responsibility – in every corner of the Mediterranean Sea: as far north as France, south to Algeria, west to Spain and east to Israel.
Her primary task was maritime surveillance, so Vancouver became a “beat cop,” hailing and investigating vessels that did not seem to fit into the local pattern of life in her patrol area. Information gathered by the ship and her CH-124 Sea King helicopter detachment was reported to NATO, where it was added to databases accessible by NATO countries. The information compiled in these databases is vital to understanding the patterns of life in a given region, so it helps deployed NATO forces identify vessels that require further investigation.
Vancouver also made regular broadcasts to inform mariners about Operation Active Endeavour and its objectives of deterring and disrupting terrorist activity, and securing the Mediterranean Sea for travel and commerce.
“Vancouver conducted robust surge operations to develop the ‘recognized maritime picture’ in our patrol areas,” said the ship’s executive officer, Lieutenant-Commander Ryan Tettamanti. “The ship and its crew made an important contribution to this vital mission to keep the Mediterranean Sea safe and disrupt terrorist activity, showing that Canada is committed to international peace and security.”
When the Rock of Gibraltar is finally behind her on the eastern horizon, Vancouver will spend a short period in port to give the crew a chance to decompress. Then the ship will head home, transiting the Atlantic Ocean and entering the Pacific via the Panama Canal. She is expected to arrive in Esquimalt sometime in mid-February.
Naval Today Staff, January 16, 2012; Image: Royal Canadian Navy