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Spain takes command of the Force in Operation ‘Atalanta’

Port of Souda, Greece
February 16, 2023
  • 'Atalanta' operation - under the European Union flag - will have its vessels and aircraft under Spanish command, with the General Staff aboard the frigate 'Reina Sofía’

The Vice Admiral of the Navy, José María Núñez Torrente, operations commander of EUNAVFOR ATALANTA, presided the handover of the Force Command, between Commodore Nuno Filipe Cortes Lopes, of the Portuguese Navy, and Captain Juan María Ibáñez Martín, in the port of Suda on board the frigates 'Santa María' and 'Reina Sofía'.

This is the forty-third rotation of the 'Atalanta' Force Headquarters since the EU operation began in DEC 2008. This HQ is made up of members of 7 nationalities and is embarked on the frigate 'Reina Sofía', commanded by frigate captain Juan José Belizón Izquierdo. The vessel will be in the area until next June. The force will have more units, such as the Italian frigate 'Carlo Bergamini' and the Spanish maritime patrol aircraft D-4.

Spain is the only EU country to have participated continuously in this operation, which emerged in response to the Somali piracy crisis. EUNAVFOR Atalanta seeks to establish a secure maritime environment in the Western Indian Ocean by combating piracy and armed robbery at sea, providing protection for World Food Programme and United Nations (UN-WFP) vessels and monitoring illegal activities such as trafficking in people, drugs and arms.

In his speech as the new Force Commander, Captain Ibáñez Martín insisted that both he and his staff face the mission with pride and enthusiasm. He acknowledged the excellent work carried out by his predecessor, Commodore Cortés Lópes, and pledged to continue in the same line of perseverance and work so that the Western Indian Ocean remains a safe sea, where cooperation with other naval forces in the area and the coastal countries is vital.

Among other authorities, the ceremony was attended by Vice Admiral Iñigo De La Puente Mora-Figueroa and the Vice Admiral of the Portuguese Navy, Jorge Nobre de Sousa, who decorated Frigate Captain Alfonso Moreno Cividanes, commander of the frigate 'Santa María' and Frigate Captain Juan Carlos Prada Pardal, Chief of Staff, with the St. George's Cross for their work.

This handover marks the beginning of a new phase in the operation in which the main objective is to keep a safe and secure maritime environment in the region.