The Frigate Independência docked at the Rio de Janeiro Naval Base on December 26, 2020, completing one of the most important international participations in the history of the Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese). The vessel, with some 200 service members, was part of the 20th and last contingent of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon Maritime Task Force (UNIFIL-MTF).
UNIFIL-MTF, the only U.N. naval peacekeeping mission, is also the first mission led by a nation that is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, since 2011. During that period, about 4,000 members of the Brazilian Armed Forces participated in the mission, with 18 MB ships, replacing its service members every six months. The mission will continue to rely on Brazilian service members, but the country will not deploy any more ships.
When the Independência arrived, MB Admiral Alípio Jorge Rodrigues da Silva, Naval Operations commander, announced that starting in May 2021, Brazil will lead the Maritime Task Force in the Northeastern region of Africa, near Somalia, to combat piracy, and will also take part in maritime security tasks in the Gulf of Guinea and in training the navies of the region.
“Our region is surrounded by what we call new threats, such as illegal fishing, trafficking of all types of material, people, drugs, and contraband. There is piracy and terrorism in the Gulf of Guinea. Therefore, our resources will focus on the threats closest to us, in accordance with the National Defense Strategy,” said Adm. Alípio Jorge.
In addition to preventing the entry of illicit products, arms, and non-authorized equipment by sea, the MB contributed to UNIFIL-MTF by training the Lebanese Navy and monitoring about 17,000 square kilometers of maritime and territorial areas. During this nine-year mission, the MTF inspected more than 71,200 ships and referred about 14,100 of them to Lebanese authorities for inspection, at sea and on land.
The COVID-19 pandemic was one of the challenges the mission faced, according to MB Commander André Felipe Rosa França de Carvalho, commander of the Frigate Independência.
“When we left Brazil, there was one case in Brazil and a few in Europe. When we departed the port of Natal headed for Beirut, Europe began to close [its borders] to protect its citizens from COVID infections; at that moment we experienced an unprecedented situation,” said Cmdr. André.
The crew faced another challenge during the attack in the port region of Beirut, on August 4, 2020. “Since the beginning we tried to help where needed […]. These were difficult moments,” said Cmdr. André, explaining that Brazilian service members participated in the operation to mitigate the damage caused by the attack in support of the Lebanese government, patrolling the vicinity of the port and supporting a ship from Bangladesh that was hit while docked at the port, about 600 meters from the explosion site.
MB Ensign Naraiane Machado Feitosa, one of Frigate Independência’s three female officers, who is also part of the first group of women to graduate from the Brazilian Naval War College in 2017, believes that the mission teaches how to overcome challenges.
“I am very proud to be part of the last contingent. Everyone feels a sense of gratitude and mission accomplished, as we did a job well done and returned home safely,” concluded Ensign Naraiane.