Lieutenant Commander Marianne Van De Kruijs explains the Friendly Approach to OAE
Nisida, Naples 23 March 2012: NATO ships patrolling the Mediterranean can be a daunting vision and that is the desired effect where the ill-intentioned are concerned. Warships operating within Operation Active Endeavour (OAE), NATO's anti-terrorism operation in the Mediterranean expect to have a deterrent effect. However the commanders of NATO ships are fully aware that the vast majority of shipping in the Mediterranean is simply going about its legitimate commercial business.
"We have various ways of getting out our message regarding the purpose of Operation Active Endeavour and we know it is important to take the time to explain our mission and ensure we get support from the people who make their living at sea, such as local fishermen,” explained Lieutenant Commander Marianne Van De Kruijs, Public Affairs Officer aboard HNMLS De Ruyter, currently flagship of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 engaged in OAE Surge Operations.
"Weather and time permitting, one of the best ways to do this is with the so-called Friendly Approach. We ask the skipper whether he minds us approaching with an inflatable boat. Some admit they are a little surprised to be of interest to a NATO frigate but in most cases these approaches turn into very cordial exchanges of information and views,” continued Van De Kruijs. "When we are able to explain our mission in such a personal a way we can be pretty sure we have got more supporters of NATO's mission out there at sea”
However things don't always go to plan. " Our crews have these little backpacks with the logo of the operation on them. They gave one to a fisherman recently and while they were talking he gave it back to them. They were a bit disappointed and tried to explain he could keep it. "Look inside” said the fisherman. He had filled it with freshly caught squid! Something tells me that was a big gesture on his part.”
SNMG1 currently consists of HNMLS De Ruyter (flagship), ESPS Álvaro de Bazán, HMCS Charlottetown and FGS Rheinland-Pfalz.
OAE was launched in 2001 following the terrorist attacks against the United States. It has since evolved into a comprehensive counter-terrorism operation that is based on the collection and analysis of information of the maritime traffic and on the surveillance conducted by NATO naval and air units. Surveillance by military assets is – at irregular intervals – concentrated into specific areas of the Mediterranean with 'Surge Operations' during which larger scale sweeps are conducted.