Operation Active Endeavour is a naval operation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It operates in the Mediterranean Sea and is designed to prevent the movement of terrorists or weapons of mass destruction as well as to enhance the security of shipping in general. It is one of the first military actions taken by NATO in response to an invocation of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty which provides for collective defense.
On 4 February 2003, the North Atlantic Council (NAC) decided to extend Operation Active Endeavour to include escorting non-military ships traveling through the Strait of Gibraltar to maintain security in the area and to secure the safe transit of designated Allied ships.
On 29 April 2003, Task Force Endeavour began boarding operations following a NAC decision to enhance the effectiveness of the current naval operations against suspected terrorist activities in the Mediterranean. The boarding operations are conducted in accordance with the rules of international law and are of a compliant nature. Over one hundred and six vessels have been boarded (as of 01 April 2008).
On 15 September 2006 NATO authorised the Russian Federation ship Pytliviy to participate in Operation Active Endeavour
Since its inception, the ships of Active Endeavour have monitored over 79,000 ships (as of April 12, 2006) and conducted voluntary boardings of over 100. They have also escorted over 480 ships through the Strait of Gibraltar until escorting was suspended in 2004.
On 4 Dec 01, STANAVFORMED ships Aliseo, Formion and Elrod were called to assist in the rescue of 84 civilians from a stricken oil rig. In high winds and heavy seas, the Italian helicopter of the Aliseo removed all 84 workers from the oil rig in 14 flights.
On 2 Jan 02, SNFL's Spanish frigate SPS Extremadura and Netherlands oiler HNMLS Amsterdam, the UK naval vessel HMS Beagle and the Greek Coast Guard provided life-saving support to the passengers of a sinking ship in the Eastern Mediterranean off Crete. The Beagle's crew repaired the leaking hull and damaged propulsion to the AYDIN KAPTAN before the weather deteriorated and Greek helicopters began winching the children and women amongst the 254 refugees onboard and carried them to Crete and the Amsterdam. On 3 Jan 02, the AYDIN KAPTAN was towed by a Greek fishing vessel, under SNFL escort, to Greek territorial waters.
While conducting counter-terrorist operations in the Mediterranean Sea, ships assigned to Operation Active Endeavor have also assisted the Greek government with the prevention of illegal immigration. On March 23, 2006, NATO forces alerted the Hellenic Coast Guard of a vessel named "M/V Crystal". The coast guard units intercepted the ship and arrested the captain and crew who were attempting to smuggle 126 illegal immigrants.
Vice Admiral Roberto Cesaretti went on to state "Although this event relates to criminals, there is also a message for the terrorists here – we are looking for you, and when we find you – there will be no place to hide."
In an interview with Rear Admiral Richard Leaman OBE, Chief of Staff of the Maritime Component Command - Naples (part of Allied Joint Force Command Naples) in June 2006, Jane's Navy International was told that the number of frigates involved in the operation had been systematically pared back, with now only three permanent frigates patrolling the Mediterranean, two standby corvettes from Greece and Turkey, and a small submarine force. However, during surge operations the number apparently can rise to 16 ships with forces from Standing NATO Maritime Groups 1 and 2.