Dramatic boarding exercise with the Lebanese Navy and UNIFIL MTF

During the training exercise LAF Navy soldiers apprehend sailors of the intercepted boat.

LAF Navy boarding team drops onto the UNIFIL Marine Task Force (MTF) frigate UNIAO during a joint exercise with UNIFIL. 

The LAF Navy boarding team takes control of the uncooperative ship’s bridge observed by a UNIFIL MTF training officer.

A UNIFIL MTF officer debriefs the LAF Navy boarding team, congratulating them on their professional handling of the exercise.

The LAF Navy boarding team departs UNIFIL’s flagship UNIAO by a LAF Navy fast boat off the coast of Beirut.

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16 May 2017

Dramatic boarding exercise with the Lebanese Navy and UNIFIL MTF

Out at sea a crackle comes over the radio: “Motor Vessel Sam, this is the Lebanese Navy. You cannot enter the Lebanese territorial waters from this position.”

The reply from the Brazilian ship is uncooperative: “Lebanese Navy, time is money, and I cannot stop my engines and alter my course.” The radio conversation between the Lebanese Navy and the Brazilian ship does not improve from this exchange, and the tone of the Lebanese Navy becomes firm.

“Motor Vessel Sam, you are violating the Lebanese authority. You will be boarded by the Lebanese Navy.”

Within minutes, a Lebanese army helicopter approaches the Brazilian ship, two ropes drop down and eight members of the Lebanese Navy drop rapidly onto the ship. Quickly and efficiently they move through the “hostile” vessel, arresting crew members, checking papers and searching for weapons and drugs.

This training exercise, off the coast of Beirut, is part of a joint training between the Lebanese Navy and UNIFIL’s Maritime Task Force (MTF). First Lt from the Lebanese Navy elaborates: “We are the boarding team of the Lebanese Navy; so anytime there is any critical boarding in our territorial waters this is the team who will conduct the boarding. This scenario may happen anytime, anywhere in Lebanon. That is why it is very important for us to always keep training for any real time scenarios.”

Chief of UNIFIL’s MTF,  Rear Admiral Sergio Fernando de Amaral Chaves Jr., observes the training alongside UNIFIL’s Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Liot de Nortbecourt. After the exercise Rear Admiral Chavez contextualizes the importance of joint training: “One of the pillars of MTF’s mission is to help the Lebanese Navy with training so that one day they can assume all the duties in terms of taking care of the security aspects of their territorial waters by themselves. So what you have seen today was a complex exercise that involved detecting a ship that's coming into the territorial waters of Lebanon, hailing this ship, deciding that it needed to be boarded, and requesting the boarding party. The helicopter brought the boarding party, they went on board the ship, inspected the ship and carried out all these tasks very well.”

After the debrief, UNIFIL’s MTF crew and the Lebanese Navy gather on the deck of the ship for a group photo. There is good camaraderie between the Navy officers from Brazil and Lebanon.  Watching this, Brig. Gen. Nortbecourt comments, “Joint training between the MTF and Lebanese Navy is very important. It raises the capacity of the Lebanese Navy. We support them not only with material and boats but also with crew.” First Lt adds: “That's what we call an exchange of experience because we have seen the Brazilian boarding team and the German teams. And that's how we gain our experience and we exchange the experience that we already have.”

Established in October 2006, UNIFIL MTF supports the Lebanese Navy preventing the unauthorized entry of arms or related material by sea into Lebanon. It also assists the Lebanese Navy enhancing its capabilities by carrying out a range of different training courses and joint exercises with the intent of the Lebanese Navy assume all duties required for maritime security. MTF currently has about 900 personnel and seven ships: two from Bangladesh and one each from Brazil, Germany, Greece, Indonesia and Turkey. The Brazilian Navy has been in the command of the MTF since 2011.


Article: Aoibheann O’Sullivan 
Video Camera: Aoibheann O’Sullivan
Video Editor: Aoibheann O’Sullivan & Suzane Baderddine 
Photos: Pascual Gorriz