On 6 April 2013, Commodore Jorge Palma (Portuguese Navy) took over as Force Commander of the EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Somalia Operation Atalanta from Rear Admiral Pedro Garcia De Paredes (Spanish Navy), following a change-of-command-ceremony in Djibouti. The Deputy Operation Commander of EU NAVFOR, Rear Admiral Eric Dupont, presided over the ceremony. Attending the handover were distinguished guests including representatives from the Djiboutian military and government as well as several ambassadors from numerous EU Member States and other nations, including his Excellency Antonio Luis Cotrim, Ambassador of Portugal to the Republic of Djibouti. Also many Commanding Officers and representatives from EU Naval Force units in port were present.
Deputy Operation Commander Rear Admiral Eric Dupont, deeply honoured to preside over to this handover ceremony, said, ‚ÄúLet me say to Rear Admiral Pedro Garcia de Paredes, with much sincerity, how impressed I am with his achievements. Admiral, under your dynamic leadership, the Force accomplished all its objectives. Your personal dedication and your relentless commitment were outstanding. You shall now hand over your command with pride of having led the EU Naval Force to success and accomplished your mission. I wish you and your staff a safe return home. Commodore Jorge Novo Palma, I congratulate you to your appointment as new Force Commander. I have noted how well prepared your staff is. I have noted the energy and willpower that drive you and your staff. I am very confident that you are ready to lead the units of the EU‚Äôs counter piracy operation off the Horn of Africa. The period to come will be challenging for our operation. It will be challenging for you, Commodore, and your staff. Yes, figures are good. Yes, our action has been effective. But piracy remains. Today, a number of pirate groups are still active. They are a real and actual threat. They hunt for merchant ships, they hunt for hostages. It is our task, your task, to protect the shipping, deter the pirates, and disrupt them. They hamper the evolution of Somalia towards a place where Somalis will have the opportunity to live in peace and dignity. I wish Commodore Novo Palma all the best and much success in the coming months.‚Äù
In his address, outgoing Force Commander Rear Admiral Pedro Garc√≠a de Paredes said, ‚ÄúIn my last words as Force Commander of EU NAVFOR Atalanta, it¬¥s a real honor to have the opportunity to address all of you and to thank the presence of all the distinguished guests on ESPS Mendez Nu√±ez¬¥s flight deck. After four months on duty I can say, in general terms, that the situation is a little better than it was on the 6th¬†December 2012. The good news is that the common efforts of the counter-piracy forces, the commitment of the shipping and fishing industries, as well as the improved co-ordination among all, have prevented pirates from successfully taking control of any vessel over the past four months. EU Naval Force units stopped 4 out 6 Pirates Action Groups at sea. The other two turned back ashore without any success. Out of 29 suspected pirates detained by our units, 21 were transferred for prosecution after a complex, difficult and persistent job taking and collecting a complete evidence packages. The bad news is that pirates are still out there; ready to catch a new prey to demand a high ransom for ship and hostages to feed their criminal business. They still hold 60 innocent seafarers in deplorable conditions. Meanwhile, well known pirates can move with complete freedom and impunity through many places in Somalia, keeping sanctuaries from which they can prepare and launch their assaults. Therefore, we must be sure that any sign of complacency or weakness in our commitment is banished in all levels. This clear message has to be released to all audiences and stressed within the industry to continue with their Best Management Practices implementation effort. Otherwise the situation could easily be reverted if we do not continue with the present determination. Finally, Commodore Novo Palma, dear Jorge, I would like to conclude with my best wishes to you and your staff. Good luck and all the best for the forthcoming months.‚Äù
Following the hand-over of command, the incoming Force Commander Commodore Jorge Palma said, ‚ÄúIt is a privilege to take over from Rear Admiral Pedro Garcia de Paredes. Successful pirate attacks are reduced, with the EU Naval Force continuing to apply pressure on their activity. Nevertheless, we all know that complacency at this moment would hamper the massive effort for the security in the region. With the situation improving, but acknowledging that piracy is not over, we must adapt with agility to evolving political, operational and tactical circumstances. I am committed to maintaining EU NAVFOR‚Äôs main achievements of a 100 per cent success rate in providing protection to World Food Programme (WFP) shipments to Somalia, as well as those of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Notwithstanding these tasks, we will remain focused on deterring and disrupting acts of piracy; continue contributing to the protection of vulnerable shipping within the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) and the High Risk Area; and maintain our close co-operation with all stakeholders; other counter piracy forces, regional partner states and industry. We also continue to support and co-operate with the other European Union missions, namely EUCAP Nestor and the EU Training Mission Somalia. We will continue to provide a key part of the EU‚Äôs Comprehensive Approach to Somalia.‚Äù