A boarding team comprising Italian marines from the NATO flagship ITS SAN MARCO, in charge of Operation Ocean Shield, and assault forces of the Russian Federation ship SEVEROMORSK trained together in counter-piracy activities as part of a bilateral exercise between NATO and Russia in the Gulf of Aden on 26 February.¬†
The event was organised in the context of counter-piracy cooperation agreed by the NATO-Russia Council (NRC). It was planned as a result of recent meetings at sea between the two naval forces, and represents a significant step forward towards NATO-Russia interoperability in counter-piracy activities in the Indian Ocean.
“This day will be a milestone in the cooperation between the Russian Federation and NATO and, I’m sure, its effects will not only be limited to counter-piracy activities but offers the prospect of other types of constructive engagement in future.” said Rear Admiral Antonio Natale at the end of the exercise.
The exercise was conducted in two main phases; during the first phase, SAN MARCO played the part of a hijacked vessel with SEVEROMORSK taking the role of a counter piracy vessel which sent an assault team to free her. In the second phase, SEVEROMORSK played the role of a vessel involved in illegal weapons trafficking and
SAN MARCO was a naval vessel looking for evidence of illegal activity and sent a boarding team to inspect the vessel.
NATO has contributed to the international counter piracy effort off the Horn of Africa since December 2008. The mission has expanded from escorting UN and World Food Programme Shipping under Operation Allied Provider and protecting merchant traffic in the Gulf of Aden under Operation Allied Protector. In addition to these activities and as part of the latest mission, Operation Ocean Shield, NATO is working with other international bodies to help develop capacity of countries in the region to tackle piracy on their own.
NATO Forces currently in Operation Ocean Shield:
ÔÅæ ITS SAN MARCO ‚Äì Flag Ship (ITALY)
ÔÅæ HDMS IVER HUITFELDT (DENMARK)
ÔÅæ TCG GOKOVA (TURKEY)
ÔÅæ USS NICHOLAS (U.S.A.)