Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Brexit Means Anti-Piracy HQ Moves from UK

France and Spain to Control Operations
Shipping News Feature
EUROPE – GULF OF ADEN – The Council of the European Union has extended the mandate of EU Navfor Somalia Operation Atalanta until 31 December 2020, and in doing so, also announced the decision to relocate the operational headquarters of EU's anti-piracy missions off the Horn of Africa, from the UK to France and Spain upon the UK's exit from the European Union. At the same time, Vice Admiral Antonio Martorell Lacave from the Spanish Navy will become the new Operation Commander.

From March 29, 2019, the set date for the UK to withdraw from the EU, the EU NAVFOR Operational Headquarters (OHQ) will move from Northwood, UK, to Rota, Spain. At the same time, the Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) will relocate to Brest, France and will remain under EU NAVFOR OHQ Command and Control. Current Operational Commander, Major General Charlie Stickland, commented:

“The transition is being planned with the utmost consideration to ensure it is smooth and seamless with continued cooperation and collaboration with all stakeholders throughout the region. During this time ATALANTA will be conducting business as usual with the Force Headquarters and ships remaining deployed and conducting deterrence of piracy and protection of WFP shipping.

“I am already working closely with Vice Admiral Antonio Martorell Lacave and it is my role to ensure that this operation remains a CSDP [Common Security and Defence Policy] exemplar and that my successor is set up for continued success.”

The EU Council also allocated a budget of €11.777 million for the common costs of the operation for the period 1 January 2019 to 31 December 2020. EU NAVFOR Operation Atalanta contributes to the deterrence, prevention and repression of acts of piracy and armed robbery off the Somali coast. The operation is part of the EU's comprehensive approach for a peaceful, stable and democratic Somalia.

The operation also protects vessels of the World Food Programme and other vulnerable shipping, monitors fishing activities off the coast of Somalia and supports other EU missions and programmes in the region.

Despite the fact that the EU NAVFOR is a truly international cooperation anyone who been allowed to tour the facility at Northwood will rue the change, knowing just what an efficient setup exists there. The staff constantly monitor the comings and goings throughout and beyond the danger areas and it is this presence and ability which has helped defeat the threat of piracy off Somalia and in the wider Indian Ocean.

With economy always in mind there have long been whispers from some quarters that this very efficiency means ‘job done’, providing an excuse to downscale the efforts of the naval forces involved. Again anyone familiar with the problems recognises that it is the continued presence of the various international forces which are essential to maintain the status quo.