Spanish Navy at the Helm of NATO Counter-Piracy Operation

Spanish Navy at the Helm of NATO Counter-Piracy Operation

Commander of Standing NATO Maritime Group ONE (SNMG1), Commodore Henning Amundsen handed over command of NATO’s counter-piracy Operation OCEAN SHIELD task force (CTF-508) at one minute past midnight December 7 to Rear-Admiral Eugenio Diaz Del Rio, Commander SNMG2.

The two commanders and staffs met and conducted handover aboard SNMG1 flagship HNoMS FRIDTJOF NANSEN. During the handover meeting, the Spanish combat support ship ESPS CANTABRIA simultaneously refuelled both flagships.

Under COMSNMG1’s leadership during the past six months, CTF-508 included several alliance and partner nations’ ships:

• Flagship HNoMS FRIDTJOF NANSEN (Norway)
• HNLMS VAN SPEIJK (Netherlands)
• Ukrainian frigate UPS HETMAN SAGAIDACHNY (the first ever non-NATO CTF-508 warship), which will continue in CTF-508 as part of SNMG2

“During our command of CTF-508, there have been no successful pirate attacks or hijackings,” said Commodore Amundsen. “In this regard we can say that we have succeeded. In cooperation and close coordination with other counter-piracy naval forces, we have been part of a task force that has successfully safeguarded merchant traffic in the Horn of Africa region.”

The past six months have seen an extraordinary amount of activity by CTF-508:

Piracy disruptions:

  •  HDMS ESBERN SNARE captured and detained 9 suspected pirates following the unsuccessful pirate attack on MV TORM KANSAS. The suspected pirates were turned over to the Seychelles for prosecution.
  •  UPS HETMAN SAGAIDACHNY boarded a skiff with seven suspected pirates aboard, confiscated all items that would have given them the capacity to conduct attacks, and forced them to return to shore unarmed, unsuccessful, and unable to pose a threat to merchant shipping in the Gulf of Aden.

Humanitarian response/rescue:

  • A disabled Somali dhow
  • A disabled Yemeni dhow
  • UPS HETMAN SAGAIDACHNY treated the Captain of MV BARWAAGO, following a possible heart attack

Cooperation with other counter-piracy and naval forces

  •  Russian Federation Baltic Fleet Task Group
  • CTF-151 and CTF-465
  • Chinese hospital ship CNS DAISHANDAO (PEACE ARK)
  • Chinese Maritime Forces ETG 999
  •  Seychelles Coast Guard
  •   Japanese Escort Division 6
  •   East African Standby Force (EASF) Maritime Task Force
  •   Republic of Korea (ROK) Naval Escort Task Group
  •   Chinese frigate PLAN HENG SHUI
  •   USS HARRY S. TRUMAN Carrier Strike Group

High-profile visits

  •   NATO Chairman of the Military Committee
  •   Commander MARCOM
  •   Norwegian Minister of Defence (MOD) Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen

“The latest attacks and approaches in the operation area show the importance of naval presence in order to secure merchant shipping,” said Amundsen. “With this vast area to patrol, we are dependent on robust international involvement and commitment to fight piracy. The numbers speak for themselves, but all our successes are due to this combined effort.”

The Spanish frigate ESPS ALVARO DE BAZAN, current flagship of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2), will be the new NATO Operation OCEAN SHIELD task force flagship. The Turkish frigate TCG GELIBOLU, currently participating in SNMG2, will also join Operation OCEAN SHIELD.

Reflecting on the challenge and responsibility of taking over the counter-piracy task force, new Commander TF-508 Rear Admiral Diaz Del Rio said “our citizens want us to ensure we maximize our efforts in the fight against piracy.”
HNOMS FRIDTJOF NANSEN will remain flagship of SNMG1. HDMS ESBERN SNARE detached from CTF-508 and SNMG1 on December 10.

Press Release, December 11, 2013; Image: NATO ACO

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