European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Somalia - Operation ATALANTA
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Background
EU Navfor/Operation Atalanta acts in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions and is the first EU-led CSDP maritime operation.
It was launched through Council Joint Action 2008/851/CFSP on 8 Dec 2008, reaching its Initial Operational Capability (IOC) on 13 Dec 2008 and Full Operational Capability (FOC) in Feb 2009.
The operation pursues the following objectives:
•the protection of vessels of the World Food Programme (WFP) delivering food aid to displaced persons in Somalia;
• the protection of African Union Mission on Somalia (AMISOM) shipping;
•the deterrence, prevention and repression of acts of piracy and armed robbery off the Somali coast;
•the protection of vulnerable shipping off the Somali coast on a case by case basis;
•in addition, EU NAVFOR - ATALANTA shall also contribute to the monitoring of fishing activities off the coast of Somalia.
 
Malta Contribution
In Nov 2008, Malta pledged to fill a key staff post for an initial period of four months at the newly set-up EU NAVFOR Operational Headquarters in Northwood, UK. In March 2009, Malta agreed to continue to contribute to Operation Atalanta, extending the deployment of the same officer for an additional two months. On 15 May 2009, Malta once again offered to extend her staff contribution in support of  EU Navfor Atalanta for the duration of the operation mandate, and has maintained this operational commitment to date. In total and to date, seven AFM officers have been deployed at the same Operational Headquarters for successive periods of approximately six months.
 
Embarked Vessel Protection Detachments (VPDs).
In Jul 2009, Malta agreed to extend its support towards EU NAVFOR/Operation Atalanta by tasking the AFM to provide an embarked military force of 12 personnel from C (Special Duties) Company AFM for a period of up to six months to protect merchant vessels under escort of another EU Member State warship.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Dutch Ministry of Defence on ‘The Deployment of a Maltese Vessel Protection Detachment (VPD) on board the HNLMS Johan de Witt’ was signed on 8 Apr 2010.
The Maltese VPD comprising two officers and ten non-commissioned officers  and soldiers boarded HNLMS Johan De Witt on 4 Apr 2010. The detachment returned to Malta on 4 July 2010.
Following agreement with the Dutch Ministry Of Defence, on 2 Oct 2010, Government approved a second deployment of an AFM VPD. A second MOU was signed in Aug 2011 and following a period of preparatory training, on 25 Oct 2011, the AFM’s second VPD deployed on board the Dutch warship HNLMS Zuiderkruis.
The Maltese VPDs’ primary task is to provide, close protection to World Food Programme, AMISOM or other vulnerable shipping against pirate attack. The Detachments are also required to assist in protecting their host vessels, undertake information gathering missions  and also contribute towards Key Leadership Engagement or Capacity Building including friendly approaches with the Somali fishing community.