On the 7th November 2017, Major General Rob Magowan CBE handed over command of EU NAVFOR Operation Atalanta to Major General Charlie Stickland OBE after 17 months in charge.
The handover took place in Brussels where General Mikhail Kostarakos, the permanent Chairman of the European Union Military Committee, thanked Major General Rob Magowan for his dedicated service. Major General Magowan, as Operation Commander, is normally based at the Operational Headquarters in Northwood, London, currently supported by men and women from 21 nations.
Over the last 17 months Major General Magowan, as Operation Commander has overseen the deployment of 23 EU Warships from six different nations, three maritime patrol aircraft from Spain, Germany and France as well as vessel protection teams from Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro. During his time in command, Major General Magowan continued to integrate EU candidate countries such as Serbia and Montenegro into the force and oversaw the successful participation of the Republic of Korea in Atalanta’s task force, demonstrating the international cooperation that is possible within the EU Common Security Defence Policy.
Part of the EU NAVFOR’s mission mandate is to protect vulnerable merchant vessels and vessels of the UN World Food Programme. Since the start of Operation Atalanta, over 1.5 million tonnes of aid relief has been successfully delivered to Somalia.
Existing partnerships with the Combined Maritime Force (CMF) based in Bahrain and the close cooperation with partners such as China, India and Japan remained a key priority for the Operation Commander. These relationships were a key factor that allowed a successful reaction to a spike in pirate activities in spring this year. It was the close collaboration of naval vessels from different operations and nations together with best management practices applied by the merchant shipping companies that ensured appropriate counter-actions to pirate activities, and the upholding of a deterrent posture.
EU NAVFOR has been instrumental in building maritime security capacity throughout the region by providing training activities and facilitating joint exercises. These military activities were complemented by regular visits of the Operation Commander to regional states in order to support ongoing political efforts to find regional solutions and to enhance maritime security efforts.
The Operation Commander also supported the European Union’s Comprehensive Approach to the development of Somalia. During his time in command, EU NAVFOR supported its sister mission EU CAP Somalia, the EU Training Mission as well as the EU Delegation to Somalia on a number of occasions by providing training opportunities for Somali forces or by hosting high level representatives including the Somali President and Prime Minister on board EU NAVFOR warships.
On departing the Major General Rob Magowan said “Our reputation is high and is delivering real effect” adding: “this is the most multinational operation I have served in and I have been well supported throughout my time in command of EU NAVFOR”. He continues “As I leave this post, it is therefore the thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen that I salute, those men and women whose perseverance and determination have made this operation the international success it is today.”