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Mare Nostrum Operation


Operation Mare Nostrum (OMN) was established by the Italian Government last October 18, 2013 to tackle the dramatic increase of migratory flows during the second half of the year and consequent tragic ship wreckages off the island of Lampedusa.

OMN consisted of an empowerment of the Migration Flows Control (CFM) activities carried out within the Italian Navy operation Constant Vigilance, according to a 2004 national law.

The naval and air units deployed to Mare Nostrum was necessary to improve maritime security, patrol sea lanes, combat illegal activities, especially human trafficking, and tackle the Mediterranean humanitarian emergency in the Sicily Straits, averaging 5 Italian Navy ships and their air units at any given time.

The Italian Navy's Operations Command, by means of the Operations Center, headquartered at the Command in Chief of the Naval Squadron (CINCNAV) in Santa Rosa base, Rome, controls all units deployed to Mare Nostrum. Also, in Santa Rosa was the Inter-ministry Maritime Surveillance Integrated Office which coordinates activities with the control rooms of other Public Agencies, Ministries, and Armed Forces.

The Italian Navy ships' commanding officers intervened to seize mother ships and to stop human traffickers in accordance with the law enforcement on the high seas regulations.

The units the Italian Navy deployed to the Operation was:

  • One amphibious vessel with specific command and control features, medical and shelter facilities for the would-be migrants;
  • One/two frigates and two second line high seas units – either patrollers or corvettes – with wide range and medical care capabilities;
  • Helicopters onboard (to be readily deployed to Lampedusa or Catania);
  • A SAN MARCO Marine Brigate team in charge of vessels inspections and the safety of migrants onboard;
  • A Coastal radar network and Italian Navy AIS (Automatic Identification System) shore stations;
  • One ATLANTIC 1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) based in Sigonella for maritime patrol;
  • One Air Force PREDATOR A+ based in Sigonella for maritime patrol;
  • One MM P180 aircraft equipped with Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR), based in Catania;
  • Two Camcopter S-100 unmanned aerial vehicles onboard ITS San Giusto;
  • One Forward Logistic Site (FLS) in Lampedusa for logistics support to the units deployed to Mare Nostrum.

The Air Force also contributed until last June 23 with unmanned aerial vehicles; and the Carabinieri Corps with a helicopter. Submarines have been used to gather evidence of the criminal activities.

Operation Mare Nostrum covered a wide area in the Straits of Sicily: about 70,000 sq. Km, three times Region Sicily.

330 smugglers have been brought to justice, thanks to the investigative bodies and their rapid and efficient investigations, but also thanks to the cooperation provided by the commanding officers, the 29th Naval Group Command, CINCNAV, the Interforces Team against Illegal Migration (G.I.C.I.C.), and the competent prosecutors. The Italian Public Security Bureau provided a task force of 14 operators and 2 cultural mediators based onboard ITS San Giorgio. The Fondazione Rava, the emergency services Corps of the Order of Malta, the Italian Red Cross military Corps and Nurses, all contributed to provide medical and hygienic care to the migrants onboard our units.

As a matter of fact, last June 13 a cooperation agreement had signed with Ministry of Health – Prevention Department, (USMAF) – to embark medical doctors from the Sea, Air and Borders department, specialized in communicable diseases.

An agreement with Save the Children has provided for the presence of professionals onboard the units for information, support, legal counseling and cultural mediation for the children and teen-agers rescued at sea.

All people rescued underwent medical triage, to assess their health conditions and necessary treatments. The USMAF doctors onboard allowed early prevention from the risks of possible infections spread ashore. 

During the last 364 days of relentless activity in all weather conditions, the units of the Italian Navy have engaged in 421 operations and rescued 150.810 migrants; 5 mother ships have been seized and 330 alleged smugglers have been brought to justice. These results have been achieved by 900 military engaged any single day day, 32 naval units and 2 submarines taking shifts in over 45,000 hours of active operations.

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