UNIFIL MTF and LAF Navy step up exercises, enhance capabilities
The UNIFIL Maritime Task Force (MTF), deployed since October 2006, has stepped up its tactical training activities with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) Navy, with some 750 joint activities having been already conducted this year.
MTF commander Rear Admiral Eduardo Augusto Wieland explained that cooperation between UNIFIL MTF and LAF Navy is tailored according to two main objectives: Enhancing LAF Navy capabilities through tactical exercises and trainings.
Training programmes are scheduled on monthly basis including through theoretical and practical exercises which can range between one to few days long. The activities of the trainings include: technical assistance, coastal radar station trainings, damage control exercise, rescue, ship certification, Maritime Interdiction Operation (MIO) exercise and boarding exercise, among others.
“What is clear and visible is the increase in the tactical trainings that aim at improving LAF Navy capacities,” remarked MTF commander Rear Admiral Wieland.
MTF supports Lebanese Navy in monitoring Lebanese territorial waters, securing the Lebanese coastline and preventing the unauthorized entry of arms or related materials by sea into Lebanon.
MTF mission also focuses in training of the Lebanese Navy so that the latter may execute, in the future, those maritime security tasks currently carried out by MTF
Since last year, the Mission’s efforts include the integration of the Lebanese patrol boats “Tabarja” and “Naqoura” into Maritime Interdiction Operation drills, lasting up to 48 hours, which is an important training stage to improve the common operational standards for monitoring and hailing activities. Rear Admiral Eduardo Augusto Wieland said another LAF navy ship is expected to operate in Lebanese territorial waters soon.
Giving details on the current process of hailing vessels bounding in and out the Lebanese waters, Rear Admiral Wieland pointed out that while UNIFIL MTF conducts the hailing of vessels, the Lebanese authorities inspects ships upon MTF’s recommendation. He explained: “When a ship is hailed, information is given by the hailed ship, which would classify the ship as suspicious or not. A request is sent to the LAF navy to inspect and the results of inspection is shared accordingly.”
The MTF Commander stressed the importance of maintaining secure waters noting that “MTF helps to produce a stable, secure, and safe maritime environment which would consequently improve local economy in the country.”
UN Security Council adopted last year Resolution 2433, which called on Beirut to develop a plan to increase its naval capabilities for a gradual transition of MTF responsibilities to the Lebanese Navy.
A total of 15 countries have contributed to the MTF which since the start of its operations on 15 October 2006, has hailed – till 8 September 2019 – 97,377 ships and referred 14,381 of those vessels to the Lebanese authorities for further inspections, at sea or land.