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Lithuanian Vessel Boarding Team are heading for the area of EU-led operation SOPHIA aboard German ship


This week Lithuanian Vessel Boarding Team left Kiel Seaport in Germany aboard FGS Rhein for the area of EUNAVFOR MED Operation SOPHIA in the Mediterranean. The ship is planned to reach the destination by the end of March.


Prior to the departure the Lithuanian Vessel Boarding Team underwent a two-week training together with the crew of FGS Rhein. “A German Vessel Protection Team that have already been deployed to SOPHIA shared experience, a separate training was arranged for our team at sea and with assault boats,” Commander of the Lithuanian Vessel Protection Team Lieutenant Junior Grade Vytenis Bučius said.


According to the Commander, Lithuanians integrated smoothly with the German crew , the hos tcrew was very friendly and integrated them within a short while.


The first 12-strong team will serve aboard FGS Rhein of the German Navy. Vessel Boarding Teams identify, detain, search and interrogate ships and crews suspected of smuggling weapons or migrants. The second Lithuanian VBT is expected to leave to take over from the first one in the area of operation after two or three months.


Lithuanian prepared two VBTs for deployment to SOPHIA in 2016. The units are based on Lithuanian Navy personnel and supplemented with Military Police, Land Force and Special Operations Forces soldiers.


Lithuania has been contributing to EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia since 2015. Apart from the deploying Vessel Boarding Team, two officers are serving aboard the command ship of the operation - Italian aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi, and one more officer serves at operational headquarters in Rome (Italy).


Operation Sophia


The European Council launched EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia in the Southern Central Mediterranean in May 2015 to disrupt human smuggling and trafficking in the southern part of the Mediterranean.


As of June 2016 the Council expanded the operation mandate with two auxiliary tasks: to enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya, and to train Libyan forces for coast protection.


The EU operation is carried out by 25 countries contributing warships and other military capabilities. Currently, the strength of the operation is five ships and six helicopters.


POC: PAO for the Joint Staff CaptainTomas Pakalnišks, 00370 65761271


Photos from the archive of the Lithuanian Armed Forces

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