Operation Atalanta

A significant objective of Operation Atalanta is the deterrence and disruption of acts of piracy and armed robbery on the high seas.

Warships apprehend suspected pirates following intelligence reports of pirate activity or sightings by merchant vessels and MPRAs.

The EU launched the European Union Naval Force ATALANTA (EU NAVFOR) in December 2008 within the framework of the European Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and in accordance with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) and International Law.  

Over 22 European and Non-European nations have contributed to Operation Atalanta, including the UK, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Norway, Serbia and the Netherlands.

Area of responsibility

EU NAVFOR operates in an Area of Operations covering the Southern Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and a large part of the Indian Ocean, including the Seychelles, Mauritius and Comoros. The Area of Operations also includes the Somali coastal territory, as well as its territorial and internal waters. 

This represents an area of about 2,000,000 square nautical miles (approximately 3,700,000 square kilometres). This is an area 1.5 times the size of mainland Europe.

What we are doing

Deterring piracy, protecting ships, increasing maritime security

Why we are there

Part of the European Union’s commitment to protect World Food Programme Vessels and other vulnerable shipping

Commander EU NAVFOR Martin Smith

Martin Smith

Rank: Major General

Martin Smith joined the Royal Marines in 1984 and became Commandant General RM in June 2014. In this role, he is serving as Operation Commander of the EU Naval Force Somalia, tasked to counter-piracy off the coast of Somalia and the Indian Ocean.

Previous units

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Providing security at sea

The UK has a responsibility to its citizens and its allies to endeavour to safeguard the high seas. This is why the Royal Navy protects home and international waters – making sure the global trade that Britain and the world depend on can proceed without a hitch.

International partnerships

As the fifth largest economy in the world, the UK has responsibilities towards its allies and partners. But Britain also has global ambitions – namely to protect the seaways underpinning the country’s prosperity. The Royal Navy plays a crucial role in fostering these enduring and lasting alliances with other nations.

Location Indian Ocean

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