Spain takes helm of counter-piracy mission off Africa

Spanish Navy Rear Admiral Rafael Fernández-Pintado Muñoz-Rojas assumed the role of force commander of the European Union’s counter-piracy operation Atalanta off the Horn of Africa.

Rojas assumed command on board his flagship, ESPS Galicia, during a ceremony held in Djibouti on Friday.

Djibouti is a key partner to the EU, with the busy port providing valuable logistical support to operation Atalanta maritime patrol aircraft and warships. Translators from the Djiboutian Navy also regularly embark operation Atalanta warships during their counter-piracy patrols to assist the sailors during their meetings with Somali and other regional forces.

During the next five months, Rear Admiral Fernández-Pintado will have tactical command of operation Atalanta warships and maritime patrol aircraft as they conduct their counter-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

Operation Atalanta was launched in December 2008 and is part of the European Union’s efforts to ensure Somali-based piracy remains suppressed to enable World Food Programme vessels that carry humanitarian aid to Somali ports and merchant ships that transport goods to and from Europe, stay safe from pirate attack.

Other key roles for operation Atalanta warships are to monitor fishing activities off the Somali coast and to support EU sister missions that are working to strengthen maritime security and capacities of regional states in the Horn of Africa.

Speaking during the ceremony Rear Admiral Fernández-Pintado stated “I am truly honoured to be operation Atalanta’s force commander. The continued deterrence of piracy off the coast of Somalia is crucial if we are to ensure seafarers remain safe. My team and I will work relentlessly to ensure that there is no hiding place for would-be pirates and it is my intention to work as closely as possible with the other EU missions in the region.”