NATO strengthens ties with merchant shipping community in Mediterranean Sea exercise

A NATO exercise involving warships from Italy, Greece and Turkey and the international merchant shipping community is taking place in the international waters of the central and eastern Mediterranean Sea.

This focused security patrol is being conducted in coordination with a Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS) exercise, named Multinational Exercise 17 (MNEX17) and led by NATO Shipping Centre, which is part of Allied Maritime Command.

MNEX 17 involves testing and evaluating procedures regarding information sharing between the merchant shipping community and NATO.

This exercise is part of NATO operation Sea Guardian (OSG) and takes place between November 27 and December 13.

In order to conduct the exercise, 71 individuals – dispersed across Europe at multiple locations ashore and on board OSG ships at sea – worked to inform civilian mariners about operation Sea Guardian. Participants included representatives from Belgium, Germany, United Kingdom, Greece, Italy, Netherland, Norway, Poland, Spain, Turkey and the United States.

While NATO Shipping Centre (NCS) at Northwood is leading the exercise, deployable NCAGS elements in Athens, Marmaris, Taranto, Toulon and Valencia are visiting merchant ships at their respective ports to brief merchant ship masters and other maritime stakeholders. Liaison Officers on board OSG ships are supporting the information flow between NATO Shipping Centre, military ships and merchant vessels. Another team located in Northwood monitors all events and identifies lessons learned to further improve NCAGS procedures as well NSC support to OSG.

“The ABNL (Admiralty Belgium and Netherlands) input consisted of a number of NCAGS specialists in the NATO headquarters in and NCAGS staff in Athens, Marmaris, Toulon, Taranto and Valencia where they informed face to face, among others, shipping companies, shipping authorities and merchant captains about Operation Sea Guardian and asked for their cooperation,” Lt. Otto Duindam of the Royal Netherlands Naval Reserve, deployed as Deputy Staff Officer NCAGS, said. “This cooperation consists of the regular reporting of the ship’s position and the reporting of observations of suspicious acts at sea.”

Operation Sea Guardian focuses on three core missions: maritime situational awareness, counter-terrorism and regional capacity building. While OSG is designed to conduct a variety of maritime security tasks, forces assigned to focused security patrols like this one support the maritime situational awareness picture maintained at NATO Allied Maritime Command.