The Navy’s frigate F931, Louise-Marie, started Monday its participation in NATO Sea Guardian operation – a first for the Belgian craft – aiming in particular at fighting against terrorism in the Mediterranean Sea, we learned on Sunday from military sources. The frigate and its crew of around 160 men and women, which left Zeebrugge, their home base, on 22 January, have reached the Mediterranean Sea to carry out a final training period at the “NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Centre” (NMIOTC), in Souda, Crete.
This training was especially intended to perfect the training of “boarding parties,” embarked aboard the Louise-Marie (or, as the sailors call it familiarly, the Loma), specified the Ministry of Defence on its web site.
The Sea Guardian operation, the idea of which had been convened in July 2016 during the NATO summit in Warsaw, follows the mission, Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean, which has been ongoing since 2011.
It aims notably at ensuring knowledge of the maritime situation, fighting against trafficking and against terrorism, ensuring the freedom of navigation and contributing to the reinforcement of the regional capacities, all while bringing logistical support to the European Union’s Sophia operation.
The Louise-Marie should participate for approximately three weeks, before taking part in an international exercise of combatting submarines and performing a few harbour visits, according to the Ministry of Defence.
Its return to Zeebrugge is scheduled on 30 March.
This is the first Belgian participation in the Sea Guardian operation. Both the Loma and its twin frigate, the Leopold 1, however, have taken part in Sophia.