Italian Navy ship Bettica, currently deployed in the Gulf of Guinea as part of Operation Gabinia, conducted a maritime security exercise together with the motor ship Great Tema, belonging to the Italian shipping group Grimaldi Group. The Company Security Officer (CSO) of the Grimaldi Group also took part in the activity, activating the company protocols and the crisis group in the company’s offices.

The exercise was conducted by simulating an attack on the ship by a pirate boat. After activating the SSAS (Ship Security Alert System) alarm system and preparing all the internal actions necessary to dissuade and counter the pirates, the merchant crew took refuge inside their citadel.

Once the alarm was received, the Coast Guard National Operations Center (CONGUARCOST) in its function as National Competent Authority for Maritime Security , involved the Navy Multi-domain Operations Center (COMM) – located in Rome within the Command in Chief of the Naval Squadron (CINCNAV) – who, in turn, designated the Bettica ship to intervene on the scene of action. The unit, under the command of frigate captain Giuseppe Bonfiglio, intercepted the merchant ship, preparing to send its boarding team from the San Marco Marine Brigade (BMSM) on board. In order to ensure the safety framework at the action scene, the AB212 helicopter, organic to the unit and equipped with two Amphibious Sharpshooters (TSA), also belonging to the BMSM, also took part in the training activity.

Once on board, the team headed to the command bridge to ensure that the merchant commander and his seamen could leave the citadel, regain control of the merchant vessel and continue sailing safely.

The Gulf of Guinea is a strategically important area for Italy, considering its close connection with the Mediterranean and the huge national interests that insist there and which require the free use of the sea and the maritime communication routes that cross it.

In this area, the phenomenon of piracy is the main threat to merchant ships and their crews that transit there and its reverberations have a significant impact on the entire commercial chain. For these reasons, since 2020 the Navy has been engaged in the waters of West Africa to protect freedom of navigation and, indeed, maritime safety.

The exercise, in addition to confirming the excellent synergy achieved between the Navy, Coast Guard, CONFITARMA and the Grimaldi Group, was useful in perfecting the procedures between all the actors who play a fundamental role in the protection of national merchant shipping.