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NATO deploys first focused maritime operation of 2021

Operation ‘Sea Guardian’ (OSG), NATO’s Mediterranean-based maritime security operation, carried out its first focused operation (FOCOP) for 2021 in the Alboran Sea. The February FOCOPS was led by the Spanish Navy’s Maritime Action Boats (Buques de Acción Marítima: BAM) patrol ship ESPS Meteoro, which deployed for 10 days to the Western Mediterranean’s Alboran Sea, supported by maritime patrol aircraft (MPAs) from Italy, Portugal, and Spain.

Tasked in 2016, OSG builds alliances and regional maritime situational awareness (MSA) through at-sea surveillance and enhanced information-sharing networks. Such networks include at-sea communications, partnering with NATO and non-NATO countries, and co-operation with international organisations. OSG contributes to MSA development ‘24/7, 365’. This presence is punctuated by six FOCOPs annually.

Announcing the FOCOP, NATO Maritime Command (MARCOM) said in an 8 February press statement, “[OSG FOCOPs] help NATO maintain an accurate maritime picture of daily activity in focused areas … and [present] an opportunity to increase co-operation and interoperability.” According to MARCOM, “This operation is also a fusion of information to create a comprehensive picture of daily activities.”

Commander Antonio Mourinha, a Portuguese naval officer and MARCOM’s primary OSG planner, told Janes on 28 January, “FOCOPs are where we try to focus on smaller areas, areas of interest for several reasons … It may be around MSA collection or developing patterns of life. It may be about deterrence of terrorism or other illegal activities. However, we also [pursue] capacity-building requirements.” He added, “Every time we conduct a FOCOP, we address the active tasks.”

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