German tender Werra returns from EU mission off Libya

German Navy’s Elbe-class replenishment ship Werra is set to return to its homeport in the Kiel Navy base after spending five months underway supporting EU’s maritime operations.

Werra departed port in June to join EUNAVFOR’s operation Sophia to help tackle people smugglers, deaths of migrants at sea and illicit arms trade.

The ship contributed to saving a total of 1.821 migrants found in sinking or unseaworthy rafts and makeshift boats.

Werra deployed together with minehunter ship Datteln whose crew concluded their mission and returned home in late September. Werra spent a bit more time deployed to the mission and was later substituted by another German Navy tender in October.

During her time with operation Sophia, Werra sailed over 25.000 nautical miles under the leadership of corvette captain Mirko Preuß.

Werra’s last rescue mission took place on October 21 and poised a real challenge for the crew. A total of 844 people were pulled from six unseaworthy boats northwest of Tripoli.

“I am proud that my crew performed their tasks professionally and achieved good results,” the commander said looking back at the mission.

Launched in June 2015, operation Sophia is part of a wider EU’s comprehensive approach to migration, tackling both current symptoms and root causes such as conflict, poverty, climate change and persecution. Last October 7, the operation moved to its second phase in high seas. The second phase authorized the mission vessels to conduct boarding, search, seizure and diversion, on the high seas, of vessels suspected of being used for human smuggling or trafficking.

European vessels have also started training Libyan Navy and Coast Guard personnel. The training regime will range from basic seamanship skills to more advanced specialist skills and include a substantial focus on human rights and international law.