Courtesy of Surface SITREP. Republished with the permission of the Surface Navy Association.
Navy combatants are designed for high-end warfighting, with sophisticated sensors, weapons and combat management systems.
But the most common mission for warships today may be “visit, board, search and seizure,” or VBSS.
Many warships on their way to operate in the Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean or the Eastern Mediterranean and Black seas pass the Greek island of Crete, where Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Centre is conveniently located to help train commands, staffs and boarding parties for maritime interdiction operations and VBSS missions.
Running rigid hull inflatable boats and sending boarding parties aboard ships, boats, or dhows isn’t glamorous.
“It isn’t naval warfare in the classical sense,” says Hellenic Navy Cdre. Ioannis Pavlopoulos, the commandant of the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Centre (NMIOTC) at Souda Bay, Crete.
“It’s not fighting ships or submarines or aircraft,” says Pavlopoulos, who is both a special operations forces and surface warfare officer who has been assigned to destroyers, and guided missile patrol boats and has commanded amphibious ships. “But it is important, and it can be dangerous. For that reason, training of boarding parties is extremely valuable.”
Maritime interdiction operations (MIO) are defined by the NATO Allied Maritime Interdiction Operations publication (ATP-71) as “The operations conducted to enforce prohibition on the maritime movement of specified persons or materials within a defined geographic area.”
That means MIO is more like a law enforcement function than a military mission. Nevertheless naval commands can deploy to remote areas of the world and in international waters where MIO may be required, such as the Arabian Gulf or Gulf of Aden.
Many warships on their way to operate in the Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean or the Eastern Mediterranean and Black seas pass the Greek island of Crete, where NMIOTC is conveniently located to help train commands, staffs and boarding parties for MIO and VBSS missions.
Interdiction of criminal elements at sea is a law enforcement function, but only navies and coast guards or other armed maritime agencies have the ability to conduct interdiction operations at sea. In some cases in international waters, national coast guards do not have authority, so the navies do the job. “It is necessary to providing proper training on international law,” Pavlopoulos says.