HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën is on her way home after a successful three months deployment to the EU Naval Force Operation Atalanta, the counter-piracy mission of the European Union.
Before joining Operation Atalanta, the ship conducted two-weeks of pre-deployment training on her way to the Suez Canal. After a brief stop in Malta, the Maltese Special Duties Enhanced Boarding Team (MSDEBT), was integrated with the Dutch crew in order to provide boarding capabilities required for counter-piracy operations. Finally, the HNLMS De Zeven Provincien joined EUNAVFOR on 19 May 2014 after transiting the Suez Canal.
The first port visit took place in Djibouti, where a terrorist attack caused 6 minor injuries amongst the crew. The suicide attack was later claimed by Al Shabaab, but ship and crew were however able to continue the mission, and started its deployment patrolling the IRTC and along the Somali coast.
During her first patrol, HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën conducted 27 friendly approaches on local dhows and skiffs. The friendly approaches provided an opportunity to inform the seafarers about the EU Naval Force presence and the on-going piracy threat.
The embarked NH90 helicopter flew 180 hours during the mission, significantly enhancing the area covered by the ship and helping to compile a detailed picture of the pattern of life at sea in Somali and surrounding waters.
To enable HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën to remain on patrol for a number of weeks, the ship carried out 9 replenishments at sea (RAS) with different oilers, including FGS Berlin, FGS Röhn, USNS Tippecanoe, USNS Patuxent, USNS Laramie and RFA Wave Ruler.
Halfway through her deployment, the Dutch frigate visited Port Victoria in the Seychelles. During the port visit a delegation of the Seychelles Coastguard was hosted for Local Maritime Capacity Building, supporting the EUCAP Nestor initiative to build up maritime capacities in the region. On board the Dutch frigate, eighteen recruits of the coastguard were briefed on Operation Atalanta and afterwards the crew provided a tour around the ship focused on the execution of boarding procedures and counter-piracy operations.
In August, HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën also completed the escort of a World Food Program (WFP) vessel, along the coast of Somalia from Berbera to Bossaso.
On Wednesday 20 August, a medal parade was held on board the ship, last as a last step before the final conclusion of the Dutch frigates deployment as part of Operation Atalanta.
The Force Commander of EU Naval Force Rear Admiral Rando, stated: “It has been a pleasure and an honour working with such a capable ship and such a competent and professional crew. You have provided valuable support to the EU Naval Force Operation Atalanta. Now for all of you it is time to rejoin your families and friends for a well deserved rest. Always fair winds and following seas.”
Press Release, August 27, 2014; Image: EU Navfor