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Defence Forces to participate in naval operations in Red Sea

Publication date 30.4.2024 10.30 | Published in English on 30.4.2024 at 11.00
Press release
Warship and a commercial ship at sea. Photo: EUNAVFOR ASPIDES

The Finnish Defence Forces will deploy staff officers to the European Union’s Naval Force EUNAVFOR Operation Aspides established in February 2024, and to the US-led Operation Prosperity Guardian launched in December 2023, both of them active in the Red Sea and its adjacent areas. The objective of the operations is to secure free and safe navigation in the Red Sea.

Attacks on Red Sea shipping by Houthi rebels operating from Yemen have persisted, and they violate the freedom and security of navigation in a vital international trade route.  In January 2024, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2722 (2024) which condemns attacks by Houthis on merchant and commercial vessels, underscores the importance of the exercise of navigational rights and freedoms of merchant and commercial vessels of all States in the Red Sea and takes note of the right of Member States, in accordance with international law, to defend their vessels from attacks.   The United States with its allies, and the European Union have launched operations to safeguard navigation in the Red Sea and its adjacent area.

In Finland, the Navy Command is in charge of the Finnish personnel serving in those operations and i.a. recruiting of staff officers.  A maximum of five staff officers will take part in the EU operation and two staff officers in the operation led by the United States.

Operation Aspides

Operation EUNAVFOR Aspides was established as a response to attacks by Houthi rebels and the threat of attacks in the Red Sea.  The operation complements international measures to safeguard navigation in the region and contributes to the EU’s agency as a provider of maritime security in a key global trade route.

The operating area of EUNAVFOR ASPIDES comprises the Bab al-Mandab Strait and the Strait of Hormuz as well as international waters in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman, and the Persian Gulf. 

The objectives of the operation include accompanying vessels in the operating area of ASPIDES, maintaining situational awareness and protecting vessels against attacks at sea.

Operation ASPIDES conducts close cooperation with the US-led Operation Prosperity Guardian and the international Combined Maritime Forces partnership under US leadership in the region.  What is more, ASPIDES conducts cooperation with States and organizations in the region, the UN and other multilateral organizations and partner countries.

The operation was set up for one year since it was launched.  A strategic assessment will be made on the operation before the end of its mandate period.  In this conjunction, its possible continuation will be assessed.

The Headquarters of Operation EUNAVFOR Aspides is based in Larissa, Greece, where the Finnish staff officers will also be deployed.

Operation Prosperity Guardian

Operation Prosperity Guardian as well was established as a response to attacks by Houthi rebels on maritime traffic in the Red Sea.  It contributes to the maintenance of security and protection of civilian vessels first and foremost through deterrence caused by military presence and, ultimately, by countering threats of attacks or attacks going on at sea targeting merchant ships or vessels operating within the operation.

More than 20 countries take part in Operation Prosperity Guardian.  In the framework of the operation, the participating countries conduct international cooperation to safeguard navigation in the region. In accordance with national decisions, they may conduct patrolling with warships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, safeguard the navigation of merchant ships and, if necessary, provide merchant ships with military assistance. 

Prosperity Guardian operates separately from the US-led coalition, which has conducted missile strikes on Houthi targets on Yemen’s soil since January 2024 with an aim of weakening the military capability of the Houthis to continue their attacks in the Red Sea. 

Finland will take part in Prosperity Guardian by deploying two soldiers to the operation.  The soldiers will serve in staff duties at the operation command headquarters in Bahrain and on the operation headquarters vessel until 19 February 2025.