European Union Naval Force Has New Operation Commander

Rear Admiral Bob Tarrant has handed over command of the European Union’s counter-piracy mission, Operation Atalanta, to Major General Martin Smith MBE.

RAdm Tarrant has commanded the European Union Naval Force since January 2013 and during this time the number of attacks on ships by Somali pirates has reduced significantly, with nine attacks in total, compared to 176 in 2011 and 35 in 2012. 

Whilst the reduction in Somalia piracy is welcomed, it is widely recognised that to achieve a lasting solution to piracy, Somalia will require assistance from the International Community to help strengthen maritime security and develop coastal livelihoods.

During the past 20 months Rear Admiral Tarrant has built closer relationships with Somali authorities and hosted a meeting at sea with the Somali President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, and EU Ambassadors. 

This and other meetings with Somali officials on board EU Naval Force warships have focused on how the EU can advise and assist the Somalis to develop their own maritime strategy in the fight against piracy.

Operation Atalanta’s success in the fight to suppress piracy speaks for itself, but I recognise that there is work to be done to secure a lasting solution to piracy.

Major General Martin Smith

RAdm Tarrant has also visited a number of countries within the Horn of Africa region to help foster mutual understanding and cooperation.           

As RAdm Tarrant has engaged with regional partners, EU Naval Force warships have continued their protection of World Food Programme (WFP) ships carrying much-needed humanitarian aid to displaced people in Somalia. 

Since its launch, the EU Naval Force has protected 277 WFP and 127 African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) ships from pirate attack off the Somali coast.  During port visits, Operation Atalanta sailors and marines have also assisted staff from EU sister mission, EUCAP Nestor, to train local maritime coastal forces.

Speaking about his time in command, RAdm Tarrant stated “It has been a privilege to command the European Union’s counter-piracy operation.  I am proud of my team in the Operational Headquarters and in EU Naval Force warships at sea, who have worked tirelessly to help keep WFP ships and seafarers safe.  

Pirates are criminals, and when you consider that between 2005 - 2012 their leaders received over 250 million Euros in ransom payments, I have no doubt that they will, if given the opportunity, try again to get out to sea to launch attacks. It is therefore essential that the International Community remains vigilant to the potential threat.”     

Prior to taking up his new role, Maj Gen Smith commanded 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines from November 2011 to June 2013.  He then attended the Royal College of Defence Studies for a year. He became the Commandant General Royal Marines (CGRM) and Commander United Kingdom Amphibious Forces (COMUKAMPHIBFOR) in June 2014.

At his joining brief to the EU Naval Force staff, Major General Smith said: “Operation Atalanta’s success in the fight to suppress piracy speaks for itself, but I recognise that there is work to be done to secure a lasting solution to piracy. 

“As Operation Commander, my focus will be on building on EU Naval Force’s achievements and strengthening the cooperation with other counter-piracy forces and our regional partners to help reduce the permissive conditions that allowed piracy to flourish.”        

The UK Naval Service has been in command of the EU Naval Force since it was launched in December 2008.