NATO ships wrap up focused Mediterranean Sea security patrols

Frigates TCG Gaziantep (F490), ITS Aviere (F583), and HS Navarinon (F461), sailing together while supporting operation Sea Guardian in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Photo: MARCOM

Turkish, Italian and Greek ships assigned to NATO as part of operation Sea Guardian completed their focused security patrols in the eastern Mediterranean Sea for February 2017.

During the more than 600 hours of patrolling the eastern Mediterranean, the ships closely monitored the safe passage of more than more than 440 ships and contacted 30 ships for informal discussions on the daily activities occurring in the region.

In addition to the ships, maritime patrol aircraft from Turkey provided 8 hours of reconnaissance coverage of the area in direct support to the mission to build what is called Maritime Situational Awareness (MSA).

MSA is shared across the Alliance and can be used to help identify possible security concerns such as weapons smuggling or terrorist activity while at the same time increasing cooperation, flexibility and strength through unified effort.

Though this focused security patrol is ending, the operation remains active.

Operation Sea Guardian is a standing Maritime Security operation in the international waters of the Mediterranean with three main tasks, Maritime Situational Awareness, counter-terrorism and regional capacity building.

As a standing operation, it is continually active through a network of ships and maritime operations centres providing information about Maritime Situational Awareness. This baseline is augmented by focused security patrols that concentrate on specific areas of interest.

NATO Maritime Command (MARCOM) leads the operation and maintains continuous Maritime Situational Awareness through information provided by national maritime operations centres, other naval information centres and through reports to MARCOM from ships under national control in what is called associated support to Operation Sea Guardian.

Associated support to Operation Sea Guardian means ships conducting their normal operations also provide information about activities in the shipping routes back to MARCOM to include in the larger MSA picture. The operation as a whole is about bringing information together to create a more comprehensive picture of patterns of life in the Mediterranean for the Allies and greater security in the Mediterranean Sea.

NATO Maritime Command fuses and analyses the data and information by crosschecking the validated information with other background information and intelligence as well as comparing with associated databases. The purpose is to identify irregularities which can be assessed, in a timely manner. If those irregularities represent a potential maritime security threat and suspicious activity, they can be further investigated. The operation draws on many sources of information and provide that information back to the contributors.

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