Why This Maritime Command Handover is Crucial
Rear Admiral Michael Busse of the German Navy and Commander of UNIFL’s Maritime Task Force met recently with Deputy Commander in Chief Asaad Abdallah of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) Navy to initiate the provisional hand over of the Maritime Interdiction Operations Command from UNIFIL to the Lebanese Navy.
To get a better understanding of this, let us backtrack a bit.
UNIFIL’s Maritime Task Force (MTF) has been patrolling Lebanon’s coastline since the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701 (2006). Ships and other maritime traffic entering Lebanese waters are monitored, hailed and, when necessary, referred to the Lebanese Armed Forces Navy for inspection.
The process of monitoring and hailing vessels is called Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO), which has so far been coordinated by one of the patrolling MTF ships. The MIO Command has essentially been a floating command center operated by UNIFIL’s Maritime Task Force.
This is now in the process of changing. The MTF provisionally passing the baton to the LAF Navy for the command of the Maritime Interdiction Operations is a big deal, because it will eventually enable the Lebanese Navy, for the first time in 16 years, to take control of maritime monitoring and interdiction operations.
But how will the LAF Navy assume this responsibility if they do not have the appropriate naval vessels? The answer lies in their 11 modern radar stations strategically dotting Lebanon’s coastline from the north to the south.
This state-of-the-art coastal radar network, donated by the German government, can see almost 100% of maritime traffic entering Lebanese territorial waters. The main radar station, C1 (Charlie 1), which is situated in Beirut, has the capability of linking and combining radar signals from all 11 radar stations to provide a live image of Lebanon’s entire territorial waters, covering in parts up to 48 nautical miles out to sea.
In fact, Charlie 1 has been monitoring maritime traffic for quite some time now, but the interdiction operations command had always been with the MTF.
Moving forward, an assessment period will evaluate and determine when Charlie 1 and the LAF Navy will be ready to take over this vital role. The area of maritime operations is divided into three sectors, the responsibility of one of these sectors would then be transferred to the LAF Navy. UNIFIL MTF personnel will support the LAF Navy during this transitional period and the MTF ships will be available as backup MIO command centers when necessary.
The day the LAF Navy assumes responsibility of the Maritime Interdiction Operations Command for the one sector, it will signify a momentous shift in them taking a crucial step toward greater control of their territorial waters. UNIFIL Maritime Task Force ships will continue to patrol Lebanon’s territorial waters and will be, in part, coordinated by the LAF Navy’s MIO Command at Charlie 1.