Operation Ocean Shield

Operation Ocean Shield, NATO’s contribution to international efforts to combat piracy off the Horn of Africa, commenced 17 August 2009.

The operation builds on the experience gained during Operation Allied Protector, NATOs’ previous counter-piracy mission, and develops a distinctive NATO role based on the broad strength of the Alliance by adopting a more comprehensive approach to counterpiracy efforts.

Images used in this article, front cover and contents page are © Italian Navy General Staff, © Italian Ministry of Defence, © POA (PHOT) Owen King FRPU (EAST) and © NATO.


ITS Libeccio is currently deployed as the Italian contribution to the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) for Operation Ocean Shield. The force, which includes ships from the United Kingdom, Greece, the United States and Turkey, fulfils a long standing commitment by NATO to maintain a visible deterrent to piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

The primary effort of integration is to build on existing coordination and corresponding activities within the region whilst encouraging and providing opportunities for the international and, where available, regional forces in to work together more and more closely on counter piracy operations. Our intent is complementary and not competition. What is important to integration is that Ocean Shield forces work towards an overall integrated approach that ultimately leads to the more efficient and effective employment of the international forces conducting counter piracy operations within the region.

Maritime Community

This line of operation is based upon the concept that the maritime community, its affiliates, and supporting international organizations must play a critical role in reducing the incidence of piracy. To this end, the plan incorporates actions to enhance related international efforts. We know that currently many companies are already taking precautions and following advice, but we also know that there is more to be done. We have two NATO organizations such as the NATO Shipping Centre and the Planning Board for Ocean Shipping that are sending this message to the maritime community complementing and supporting the efforts of the other relevant bodies such as the UK Maritime Trade Organisation.

Capacity Building

Joint training exercises in counter-piracy measures with the Puntland Coastguard.

Here the aim is to develop, in coordination with other international efforts, the capacity of regional states to conduct effective counter-piracy operations. We, along with the rest of the international Community, are in the early stages of this work which will be a long and challenging task. We are currently focusing on identifying the comprehensive requirements of regional states. The intent is to collaboratively create a development plan for each designated state. Once resourced, these plans can be implemented in coordination with other related international initiatives, and executed by not only Ocean Shield capacity building entities and mobile training teams, but also other national and international organizations. Ultimately, the intent is that regional nations will develop their own independent counter piracy capability. In practical terms, what I have just highlighted are the elements of a “ Military Comprehensive Approach” to counter piracy. NATO is a multi-national and multi-cultural force that possesses the expertise, professionalism and experience to accomplish, in coordination with all our partners, this new challenging mission.

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