Robles highlights the Spanish navy's commitment to international maritime security

News - 2023.9.8

The acting Minister for Defence, Margarita Robles, held a videoconference with the commanders of the Maritime Action Vessel 'Tornado' and the frigates 'Méndez Núñez' and 'Navarra', deployed on international missions of the EU and NATO in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, in which she highlighted the navy's commitment to international maritime security.

"Today I wanted to pay special tribute to the navy, because in very difficult and high-risk situations, such as in NATO, in the war in Ukraine and in the conflicts in Yemen and Somalia, they are flying the Spanish flag very high," said Robles.

In the videoconference held at the Defence Operations Conduction Centre at the ministry's headquarters, Robles spoke first with the commander of the frigate 'Méndez Núñez', frigate captain David Díaz-Caneja, who deployed a crew of 232 last August in operation 'Noble Shield', part of the permanent naval grouping (SNMG-2) of NATO's naval force in the Mediterranean, on a deterrence and defence mission.

The main mission of the operation is to maximise the visibility and presence of the Atlantic Alliance to achieve deterrence effects without escalating the situation by conducting enhanced active surveillance of Russian naval units and training activities in the Mediterranean Sea area.

Commander Díaz-Caneja reviewed the mission, highlighting five interactions with Russian ships in the Western and Central Mediterranean area, which have not involved "any escalation" and are framed within a "tense normality", and the current participation in the 'Dynamic Guard' exercise, oriented towards electronic warfare, organised by NATO and in which Spain is acting as host country.

The commander also pointed out that the 'Méndez Núñez' is currently acting as the group's command ship due to the breakdown of the British ship HMS 'Duncan', which is why British Commodore Paul Stroude and his staff are on board. Robles congratulated the commander on this occasion, highlighting that it "shows that both the frigate and its crew are very well prepared".

Protection of the World Food Programme

Afterwards, the acting Minister for Defence was able to talk with the commander of the frigate 'Navarra', frigate captain Álvaro Huelin Gan, which with 220 people on board is part of the 'Atalanta' operation under the EU flag. The mission aims to ensure and establish a safe and secure maritime environment in the Western Indian Ocean by providing security for vessels transiting the Somali Basin, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, in particular those involved in the UN World Food Programme.

Commander Huelin Gan emphasised that the mission has provided protection to some 80 World Food Programme vessels in one of the main missions of the operation, which is to "ensure that piracy does not re-emerge". In this regard, Robles stressed that "piracy in the area has decreased considerably thanks to operation 'Atalanta' and the role of the Spanish Navy", which is taking place "in a very dangerous area".

"The situation in the area is terrible, with famine in both Somalia and Yemen, coupled with great violence. Right now, there are 13 million Yemenis who are at physical risk and at risk of starvation, and in Somalia 80% of the population is at enormous risk because of the Al Shabat terrorist group, which is hitting the country in a tremendous way," said Robles.

This EU initiative arose in response to the Somali piracy crisis in 2008, which is now considered to have been suppressed, confirming the success of a mission that relied on navy units on an uninterrupted basis. In addition to its presence and protection of ships, the frigate 'Navarra' provides support and preparation to the security forces of Somalia and other neighbouring countries in the process of creating their own maritime security architecture.

Coordinated maritime presences

This was followed by the commander of the Maritime Action Ship (BAM) 'Tornado', Lieutenant Commander David Castillo. The vessel has recently started its deployment to the West African coast and the Gulf of Guinea as part of the EU's Coordinated Maritime Presences in the Gulf of Guinea (CMP-GoG) initiative, as an effective instrument to improve maritime security in the area and to advance cooperation between the EU and West and Central African states.

The aim of this mechanism in the region is to ensure a permanent maritime presence and readiness, to promote international maritime cooperation and to provide enhanced European operational capacity. "With our deployment, we are helping to stabilise the area, projecting the image of a reliable country committed to maritime security," said Commander Castillo.

"I want to highlight the value of defence diplomacy and the navy's work in maritime security. The armed forces are one of the best representations of the Spain brand because of their international commitment," said Robles.

The commander informed the minister that the 'Tornado' is currently monitoring a boat carrying between 50 and 70 migrants to check that there is no risk to them, which could lead to it intervening.

Piracy and acts of theft at sea pose a major risk to the national fishing and maritime community operating in the region, where there is also a proliferation of illicit trafficking that threatens our country. Instability in the region, which is an important source of energy resources for Spain, jeopardises free navigation along these essential sea lanes.

Non official translation