Italian warship ITS Libeccio has reached the half way point in its four month deployment with the European Union Naval Force, operating off Somalia.
ITS Libeccio, which has 237 sailors on board, took over counter piracy duties from another Italian warship, ITS Zeffiro on 6 October 2013. Having now spent two months on patrol in the Horn of Africa, the warship has sailed over 8,500 nautical miles, conducted 28 friendly approaches with local seafarers and carried out 5 fuel replenishments at sea. The embarked helicopters have also flown over 85 hours, and remained ever alert to pirate attacks on ships transiting the sea area.
Operation Atalanta started in December 2008 following the rise in pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden. The European Union was concerned about the effect these attacks would have on World Food Programme ships carrying aid to Africa and on the merchant ships carrying goods in to Europe.
The Italian Navy has participated in both the European Union’s Operation Atalanta and in NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield, with both task forces contributing to the significant reduction in piracy over the past 18 months. In 2011 there were 176 pirate attacks, with ships being pirated. So far this year, there has been 6, none of which have resulted in a ship being pirated.
Speaking about his ship’s company, the Commanding Officer of ITS Libeccio said:
“I am proud of the crew of ITS Libeccio. All the men and women on board appreciate that whilst on patrol as sea that we need to work long hours and sacrifices have to be made. Understandably, we miss our families, particularly at this time of year, but we get immense professional satisfaction knowing the importance of the duty we have been assigned”.
ITS Libeccio will return in its home port of La Spezia in the second half of February 2014.
Press Release, December 10, 2013; Image: EU Navfor