October 30, 2020 (Google Translation) – This deployment has been the third time the frigate has taken part in this EU-led operation, and the most atypical one, because of the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last Friday, October 30th, frigate ‘Santa María’ returned to her base in the province of Cádiz, after spending five months operating in the waters of the Horn of Africa.
Around 200 family members welcomed the crew at the dock, maintaining the social distancing and other COVID prevention measures at all times.
The main objective of this European Union mission, is not only the fight against piracy in Indian waters off the coast of Somalia, but also the protection of World Food Program (WFP) ships and other vulnerable vessels, and ensure the safety shipping in the area.
The ‘Santa María’ is the first Spanish Navy vessel to complete a full deployment of this nature and duration, during the pandemic. After an intense previous period of preparation and readiness carried out under demanding conditions, due to the restrictions imposed by the State of Alert, the ‘Santa María’ set sail from the Rota Naval Base on June 5th.
For the vast majority of the crew, last Friday 30th was the first time that they could set foot on land after almost 150 days without disembarking because, due to COVID’s protection measures, the personnel on board had not been authorized to leave the ship during the scheduled port-calls.
In the course of this deployment, frigate ‘Santa María’ sailed more than 25,000 miles, the equivalent of more than one round-the-world trip, and visited numerous ports like Djibouti, Mombasa (Kenya), Salalah and Duqm (Oman).
During the various patrols, the F-81 carried out a large number of control and surveillance missions over the Somali coast, using the ‘Scan Eagle’ drone and a AB-212 helicopter, embarked for the mission.
In addition to the ordinary surveillance missions in the area of operations, the ‘Santa María’ rescued the tugboat ‘Alaa’ in Somali waters and later transferred it to the port of Bossaso, in harsh sea conditions. She also provided medical assistance to the gas tanker ‘Al-Thakhira’, in the waters of the IRTC (International Recognized Transit Corridor) in the Gulf of Aden, with a patient in a coma.
Frigate ‘Santa María’ is named after the ship used by Christopher Columbus when he discovered the New World on October 12th, 1492. There were three other ships in the Spanish Navy with this same name: a fluyt built in Santander in 1590; a 34-gun frigate built in Ferrol in 1785 and a 4-gun hulk built in La Carraca in 1850 and dedicated to logistic transport and training ship for midshipmen.