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 protecting the ships of the World Food Programme, the ships of the UN misión for Somalia (AMISOM) and maintaining the security of vulnerable maritime traffic..
The transfer of the Operational Headquarters (OHQ) from the British city of Northwood to the Rota Naval Base, in Cadiz, was formalized on the March 29, 2019, following the departure of the United Kingdom 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 inception, has continuously participated in this mission by providing several naval and air resources to the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR).
The amphibious assault 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 to the area 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 employed at any time and to exercise command of any operation or mision under the Common Security and Defence Policy. This command has been assumed by the Spanish Vice Admiral Antonio Martorell Lacave.
Spain has on several occasions assumed command of the Force Headquarters (FHQ) of the European Union Naval Operation in the Indian Ocean from the ship deployed in the area. 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.
Until 2019, the Spanish Armed Forces have assumed command of the 'Atalanta' force on up to nine occasions since its inception more tan a decade ago, a sign of this firm commitment to defend national and international interest in the area. Regarding the ship, this the third time that it is deployed in this mission, after intervening in 2009 and 2015, and the first time it does so as Command Ship.
The increase 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, the Council of the European Union approved, on 10 November 2008, the creation of a naval air force. This was the first maritime operation by the European Union under the framework of the Common Security and Defence Policy. Shortly afterwards, Atalanta was launched.
The deployment of a Spanish contingent to the area was passed by Congress o on January 21st, 2009. Two days later, the Council of Ministers approved 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 crossings of the main trade routes between Asia and Europe. Somali piracy also threatened the delivery of humanitarian aid from the UN World Food Programme.
In 2008, there were 134 attacks and 40 ship hijackings, including the Spanish fishing vessel 'Playa de Bakio', highlighting that piracy was also a threat to the activity of the tuna fleet.
At the request of Spain and France, on December 8th, 2008, the European Union Council launched Operation Atalanta.
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