West AfricaReportStabilization / Peace

In the Gulf of Guinea, the secure chat mother of all information

(B2) To defeat piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, sailors have a discreet tool: a secure chat, very useful for MDAT-Gog sailors of Brest, who watch over the grain

NB: Born of the cooperation between the Royal Navy (UKMTO) and the French Navy (MICA-Center), the Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GoG). has been operational since June 20, 2016. It supports the Yaoundé process

Yaris and Solarta

To communicate, all the forces use a secure chat: Yaris (from the Crimario program) and Solarta (a system similar to that of the British Mercury system). Solarta came to fill a void pending the development of Yaris, more complex to implement, more complete also with cartography, etc. It will be operational in October, after a trial period of 11 months. An initiative pushed by the British... which, suddenly, was not easy to finance by the Europeans.

Information exchange systems are essential

The system has an advantage: being able to exchange information instantly in real time (information + files), between all the buildings present in the area, the local commands, or remotely (in Brest and Northwood) — but also the piracy cell Merchant Navy (IMB). He also participates in the implementation of the local security architecture (supported by the Gogin+ program). But, above all, it makes it possible to issue alerts in the event of an incident, from the nearest command as well as the furthest away.

Very useful in case of attack

During the attack on the Italian ship MSC Lucia on October 25 (2021) about 150 nautical miles northwest of the island of Sao Tome, the device revealed its usefulness. The container ship's crew warned the Italian frigate in the area. But she was too far away to intervene. The Italians then warn the MDAT GOG says Eric Jaslin, the commander of the Mica Center. " The Mica Center launches an alert on its networks. This immediately reaches London at the IMB's anti-piracy center as well as at the Russian navy, which has a ship in the area. »

From Italians to Russians

The Russians of Vice Admiral Kulakov take off their Kumov Ka-27PS helicopter, with a team of marines on board. This ends the attack. The pirates clear out. " Without the information network, we could not have prevented the attack so quickly. Thanks also to the setting up of the BMPs by the sailors and the fact that they had taken refuge in the citadel. " This saved valuable time, allowing the helicopter to intervene. »

Confidentiality, the mother of all trust

The hallmark of the Mica center is the verification of information, but also to ensure " a certain confidentiality ". For example, " when we broadcast information, there is no name of the boat or mention of the hostages. It is up to each shipping company to indicate what information it will allow to disseminate. » Confidentiality appreciated by the maritime sector, which likes discretion. Shipping companies" have renewed their confidence in us. Because we precisely assure them of the respect of confidentiality. concluded the French officer.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde, in Brest)

La voluntary naval cooperation or CNV

This process was developed to combine the merchant navy and the military navy. The CNV is aimed not only at companies, but also at maritime industries. This now concerns 20 to 46 maritime companies and industries (shipowners, security companies, insurers) of eight nationalities (including France). This represents today more than 300 ships. Substantial network.

Challenge: the study of risks. " Our partners want to know the risks of piracy but also the other risks (drugs, smuggling, etc.) that could threaten their maritime traffic. We are an interface between the French Navy, shipowners and companies. »

Started with French shipowners in 2019, the system was then opened up to foreigners. A CNV protocol has thus been signed with the Maltese company CSM Columbia, which is headquartered in Singapore, with a total of 40 registered boats.

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).