Formal ceremony in which the Spanish group handed over command to the United States group. :: CARLOS MORET
Many who passed through the Palmeral de la Sorpresas last weekend were surprised to see two military ships docked in Muelle 2 of the port, and rightfully so, as it’s not everyday that a NATO Maritime Group arrives in a Spanish port.
The frigates were part of the Standing Maritime NATO Group 2, consisting of the Spanish ‘Cristóbal Colón’, the Turkish ‘Kemalreis’, the Canadian ‘Regina’ and the American destroyer ‘Leyte Gulf’. The first two ships were available for touring from last Sunday and many people came out to get a closer look at the inner workings of them. There were over a thousand military personnel in total on all four ships.
The reason for this military deployment and visit to Malaga’s port was a Change of Command Ceremony. The ceremony took place on Tuesday morning, in which the Spanish Navy turned over command of the Maritime NATO Group 2 to the US Navy, meaning that the US will be the flag ship for the group this upcoming year. It has been over five years since a US ship has been in charge of standing in a Maritime group.
In the ceremony, the Spanish Rear Admiral, Eugenio Díaz del Río, turned over the position to the American Real Admiral, Brad Williamson, after 13 months as commander of the group.
This is the first time that Malaga has ever hosted a military act such as this and as Díaz del Río stated, “There is no better port than Malaga in the Mediterranean to have carried out this ceremony.” This NATO group passed through Malaga last September and didn’t hesitate in considering it for this special ceremony, given how good the treatment was last year.
To understand more about what the NATO Group does, SUR inEnglish interviewed members of the US Navy who were doing volunteer work in the city. Ensign John Stevens, Public Affairs Officer for the US Navy Leyte Gulf told us: “Our primary goal is maritime security, promoting peace and stability for all our partner nations as well as merchant mariners trying to do their business on the seas. We try to keep them safe from any piracy or violation of treaties.”
Admiral Díaz del Río, from the Spanish group said that the work carried out by this NATO Maritime Group, which can include up to seven ships that rotate every four to six months, is essential for the surveillance of and prevention against piracy, that is, the hijacking of ships carrying goods. “People do not know that most of the world’s trade is done by sea, hence the reason our work is so important,” said Díaz del Río.
NATO has two groups of frigates, the one that docked in Malaga’s port this past week and another that is operating in the Indian Ocean.