The Italian Navy has taken over command of the operation Sophia task force from the Spanish Navy in a ceremony at Italian naval base Taranto.
On the occasion, Italian Navy Rear Admiral Giuseppe Berutti Bergotto replaced Spanish Navy Rear Admiral Javier Moreno as the new deputy force commander.
During the change of command ceremony, the operation also welcomed a new flagship as the Italian Navy auxiliary ship ITS Etna took over as flagship from Spanish oiler ESPS Cantabria.
“I must highlight the excellent job that Cantabria has done. From this ship, the force commander has been able to provide tactical command of naval and air assets assigned to the Sophia task force, as well coordinating those precious assets assigned in associated support,” EUNAVFOR MED operation commander, Rear Admiral Enrico Credendino commented during the ceremony.
Additionally, operation Sophia was joined by Spanish frigate ESPS Santa Maria while Italian frigate ITS Zeffiro concluded her deployment to the operation.
Operation Sophia was launched on June 22, 2015 with the core task to contribute to wider EU efforts to disrupt the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean.
From October 2016 EUNAVFOR Med operation Sophia has also been carrying out two additional tasks: the training of the Libyan Navy and Libyan Navy Coast Guard and the implementation of the arms embargo off the coast of Libya.
From the beginning of operation EUNAVFOR MED has apprehended 130 suspected smugglers and delivered them to the Italian authorities, neutralized 520 boats from being re-used by smugglers and rescued over 42.400 migrants.