Operation Atalanta is part of the commitment undertaken by Spain, under the EU flag, in its effort to maintain security in the Gulf of Aden and Somalia waters, by protecting the World Food Programme and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISON) ONU ships and keeping safe the vulnerable maritime traffic.
The Operational Headquarters (OHQ) move from the British city of Northwood to the Rota Naval Base, in Cádiz, is effective on the 29th of March 2019, after the United Kingdom exit from the European Union.
Since its beginning in 2008, Operation Atalanta contributes to increase security in the Indian Ocean. For that purpose, it executes maritime surveillance activities with the aim of preventing and stopping possible acts of piracy; it collaborates in monitoring fishing activities in the Somali coast and assures food delivery from the World Food Programme (WFP). Spain, since its start, has continuously participated in this mission by providing several naval and air resources to the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR).
The amphibious warfare vessel (BBA) “Castilla”, with Embarked Air Unit (UNAEMB in Spanish) of two helicopters SH-60B/F, was deployed. Besides, the Embarked International Staff (Force Headquarters, FHQ) of the operation is on board the Armed Forces ship. Afterwards, the BAM (Maritime Action Ship) “Relámpago” was deployed until 10th March 2019, being taken over by the Spanish frigate Navarra (F85).
The Commander of the Operation is in charge of the OHQ, ready to be used at any time, taking also the command of any Common Security and Defence Policy operation or mission. This command has been assumed by the Spanish Vice Admiral Antonio Martorell Lacave.
Since ship deployment in the area, Spain has undertaken in several occasions command of Force Headquarters (FHQ) from the European Union Naval Operation in the Indico. This command has been firstly assumed by the Counter Admiral Alfonso Pérez de Nanclares, and starting March 2018 by the Rear Admiral Ricardo Atanasio Hernández López.
Spain also contributes to the Operation Atalanta with the Orión Detachment in Yibuti, with around 50 soldiers.
From the start until 2019, more than one decade ago, Spanish Armed Forces have assumed in nine occasions the force command of the Operation Atalanta. This fact proves its strong commitment for defending national and international interests in the area. Regarding the ship, it is the third time that it is deployed in this mission, after intervening in 2009 and 2015, and the first time it is deployed as warfare vessel.
The rise in acts of piracy in the Indian Ocean from 2005 led the United Nations Security Council to adopt a set of resolutions to protect maritime traffic in this area.
To support these provisions, on 10th November 2008 the European Union Council approved the creation of the Aeronaval Forces. It was the EU´s first maritime operation that was carried out under the framework of the Common Security and Defence Policy. This set Operation Atalanta in motion.
The deployment of a Spanish contingent to the area was authorised by the Congress of Deputies on 21st January 2009. Two days later, the Cabinet authorised Spain´s participation in the operation.
The Indian Ocean had become a high-risk area for the 20,000 boats that annually cross the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, obligatory parts of one of the main commercial routes between Asia and Europe. Somalian piracy also threatened the distribution of humanitarian aid from the United Nations´ World Food Programme.
In 2008, there were 134 attacks and 40 ship hijackings, amongst them the Spanish fishing boat Playa de Bakio, which proved that piracy was also a threat to the activities of the national tuna fleet.
At the request of Spain and France, on 8th December 2008, the European Union Council launched Operation Atalanta.
· July 24. The 35th Contingent takes full responsibility for the “Orión” detachment in Yibuti.
· July 23. “Canarias” frigate takes over from “Navarra” frigate.
· March 27. The 34th Contingent of the Spanish Air Force Orión Detachment has taken over command in Djibouti. The new contingent, whose relief overlaps the 64th rotation, is composed by 60 soldiers and is under the command of Lieutenant colonel Jaime Peñuela, replacing Lieutenant colonel Marín Rodríguez.
· On 10th March, FFG (F85) “Navarra” frigate is deployed, taking over from “Relámpago” meteoro-class offshore patrol vessel (BAM in Spanish). From 10th March to 23rd July, Spain has taken over the command of the Force Headquarters (FHQ) from the European Union Naval Force Mediterranean Operation, leading from the F-85 Navarra, under the command of Rear Admiral Ricardo Atanasio Hernández López.
· December 6. “Relámpago” meteoro-class offshore patrol vessel (BAM) takes over from “Castilla” amphibious assault ship (BAA in Spanish), and it has been integrated into the European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) for its participation in operation Atalanta against piracy. “Relámpago” has stayed in the area of operations in the Indian Ocean until March.
· August 6. Spain takes over the Force command by using the amphibious assault ship as a command ship.
· July 30. The EU Council extends the command of operation Atalanta, EU NAVFOR Somalia until 31st December 2020. On 29th March 2019, the Council also decided to relocate the operating headquarters of the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) from Northwood (UK) to Rota (Spain). On the same date, Vice admiral Antonio Martorell Lacave of the Spanish Army was appointed as the new Operation Commander. Both the relocation and change of command were necessary due to the UK decision to leave the EU.
· April 23. “Meteoro” meteoro-class offshore patrol vessel (BAM), whose military base is located in the Arsenal of Las Palmas, has taken over from “Patiño” replenishment oiler (BAC in Spanish) within the framework of the operation Atalanta.
· February 24. Spain takes the command of the operation till 27th July. “Galicia” amphibious assault ship acts as a flagship.
· December 28. Participation is extended till 31st December 2018. Up to 375 troops take part in the operation.
· April 6. Spain takes over the Force command of the operation till 6th August. “Galicia” amphibious assault ship acts as the command ship.
· December 6. Spain takes over the command of the operation till 6th April 2013. “Méndez Núñez” frigate acts as the command ship.
· August. For the first time in the Indian Ocean, Spain deploys “Relámpago”, one of its new offshore patrol vessels.
· September 10. “Galicia” ship releases a French city and arrests the hijackers.
· September 5. Spain takes over the Force command of operation Atalanta.
· December 14. Spain takes over the command of operation Atalanta.
· February 25: Atalanta´s functions are extended, including port and pirate´s headquarters control.
· October 2. Hijacking of the Basque fishing “Alakrana”. Spain sent a frigate to the south to protect the tuna fleet.
· April 6. Our country takes over for the first time the Force command.
· January 23. Spain sent the first ship to the area, “Victoria” frigate.
· January 23. The Council of Ministers approves Spanish participation in the operation.
· January 21. The Congress of Deputies authorizes sending a Spanish contingent to Atalanta.
· December 8. Operation Atalanta is started.
· November 10. The European Union approves the creation of a naval air force.
· September 23. “Orión” maritime surveillance aircraft P-3 is sent by Spain to Djibouti.
Frigates ‘Numancia’ and ‘Victoria’ deliver humanitarian aid and educational material in Djibouti2020/02/25
Orión detachment delivers medicines to Caritas Djibouti2020/02/24
The frigate 'Numancia' takes over from 'Victoria' in Operation Atalanta2020/02/17