Croatian Navy officers protecting the UN ships in ATALANTA
Late July 2014 saw the final evaluatoion of the first Croatian Autonomous Vessel Protection Detachment – AVPD, which is to be deployed to EU NAVFOR SOMALIA – OPERATION ATALANTA by the end of the year. The responsible unit is the Croatian Navy, whose members have successfully participated in the operation at officer posts in the ATALANTA Headquarters in Northwood and aboard the ships deployed in the area. The first Croatian AVPD team will be composed of ten members, commanded by Lieutenant (N) Nenad Kontri.
The AVPD teams are armed Navy teams deployed to the ATALANTA Operations aboard merchant vessels within the World Food Programme off the Somali coast and the neighbouring countries, delivering humanitarian aid and supplies to the population. The AVPD teams operate onboard the vessels during navigation, at ports and at anchorage, assigned with securing, deterring and protecting the vessels from the pirat attacks, robberies and hijacks at sea and in ports. The introduction of the teams has turned out highly beneficial – in 2012 there have been as many as 75 pirat attacks, and 14 of them had effects , whereas in 2013 1 of a total of 9 attempted attacks had effects. The most recent data suggest one major vessel hijacked with 39 hostages for whom the pirates demand ransom, compared to the 32 vessels hijacked and 763 seamen kept hostages at the peak of the crisis in 2011, when the amounts paid in ransom mounted to 157 million USD:
The Somali pirate's operating area surpassing the size of Europe, the protection of the ships by frigates increased largely the expenses of per diems, fuel and amortisation, which led to the idea of replacing them with trained, armed and prepared teams constantly onboard the WFP vessels protecting them. The idea turned out to be a very reasonable one.
The final evaluation event was preceded by lengthy work and preparations at all levels – talks, collecting other nations' experiences, particularly of Germany and the Netherlands, who already had their AVPD teams deployed to ATALANTA; drafting and acceptance of the pre-deployment training programmes at all levels and the final selection of the best candidates for the first Croatian team followed by a months-long demanding training.
Lieutenant (N) Nenad Kontri, who is to take the command of the first Croatian AVPD team, assessed the pre-deployment training as very well-concieved and administered by experienced officers previously serving in ATALANTA. «ATALANTA» will the most demanding operation for the Navy personnel so far. I am satisfied completely with the selection procedure, taking into consideration the expected demanding nature of the operation, and with the results too. The Team is composed of the members of the former naval demolitioners of the Special Operations Battalion, experienced and model servicemen, who went through a series of demanding training situations and proved their qualities“.