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A Portuguese in command of Atalanta off Somalia. With limited means

(B2) Portuguese Commodore João Paulo Silva Pereira took command of the EU maritime force deployed off the coast of Somalia (EUNAVFOR Atalanta) in mid-January.

Commodore Silva Pereira and his staff (Photo: EUNAVFOR Atalanta)

On board a Spanish frigate

The Portuguese has officially been commander of the force since January 12, 2022 for two months. He actually took up his duties on Friday (January 14). It does not operate aboard a Portuguese ship. But from a Spanish frigate, the ESPS Victoria (F-82), which serves as its flagship. A regular in the area. He is supported by a small staff (FHQ) made up of around twenty other sailors, mainly Portuguese (five) and Spanish. Operation Command (OHQ) is located in Rota (Spain), headed by Vice Admiral José M. Nunze Torrente.

This is the 39th rotation of the force commander since the start of the operation in December 2008. The previous force commander, rear admiral Spanish Alejandro Cuerda Lorenzo, on December 14, handed over the force commander temporarily to the operation commander.

A former Corte Real officer

Aged 54, Silva Pereira is an experienced officer. Entered the Marinha (the Portuguese Navy) in 1986, he commanded the frigate Corte Real (F-332) between 2010 and 2012. The first Portuguese ship engaged in the anti-piracy operation in 2011 as part of the NATO operation Ocean Shield.

An operation with limited means

The means for the operation currently remain limited and provided mainly by Spain, which has fully supported this operation since its beginnings (2008). Madrid thus provides the flagship (and the only ship), equipped with an Agusta Bell AB212 type helicopter (or two depending on the moment), as well as a Scan Eagle type drone, and a P3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft. based in Djibouti. Abandoned by other countries. All other countries withdrew. Germany no longer has any maritime patrol aircraft to offer. France only contributes when it has time (often through its resources based in Reunion). Greece and Sweden have other concerns in their respective waters, etc.

The abrupt end of Atalanta I, while waiting for Atalanta II?

This could be the last force commander of the operation. At least in its current format. The United Nations Security Council only succeeded in renewing the executive mandate of the operation for three months, until March 3, 2022. Somalia having refused to give its authorization for the first time since 2008. Unless there is an agreement with Mogadishu or an international decision, European ships will be prohibited from entering territorial waters. But the Europeans are already working on an Atalanta II operation, which will have a broader scope and will have to be revived, within the framework of coordinated maritime presences (read our upcoming article on B2 pro).

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).