As part of its ongoing support to the Lebanese Armed Forces Navy (LAF-N), UNIFIL's Maritime Task Force (MTF) today conducted a joint training with LAF Navy personnel off the coast of Beirut Port.

The demanding two-hour boarding exercise - involving the UNIFIL flagship "UNI?O" (Brazil), helicopters and patrol boats - helps to further the full operational capability of the LAF Navy as well as enhance UNIFIL-MTF's inter-operational capability with the Navy.

During the exercise, which was the second such joint activity in four months, LAF Navy personnel trained with UNIFIL-MTF's Brazilian Navy personnel in taking control of a ship, arresting the crew and finding "illegal materials" onboard.

The boarding exercise was observed by senior UNIFIL and LAF officials, including the UN Mission's head and Force Commander Major General Michael Beary, MTF Commander Rear Admiral Sergio Fernando de Amaral Chaves Jr. and LAF Navy Commander Rear Admiral Majed Alwan.

In his comments after the event, Major General Beary hailed the cooperation and joint activities between MTF and the LAF Navy.

"Joint and coordinated exercises between UNIFIL-MTF and LAF Navy have not only kept the Lebanese territorial waters safe, but they also make an important contribution to the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006)," said the UNIFIL head. "These joint activities form a significant deterrent against the illegal entry of weapons or related materials into Lebanon."

As the UN Peacekeeping's first and only naval force, UNIFIL's MTF was deployed on 15 October 2006 at the request of the Government of Lebanon. Since then, it has hailed more than 80,000 ships, of which about 10,000 were referred to the Lebanese Navy for inspection.

It supports the LAF Navy in preventing the unauthorized entry of arms or related material by sea into Lebanon. Its mission also focuses on assisting Lebanon raise its own naval forces to control and protect Lebanon's seaways and territorial waters. In order to achieve that, MTF carries out a range of different training courses and joint exercises with the LAF Navy in order to prepare it to assume all duties required for maritime security, protecting Lebanon's sovereignty and supporting economic investment.

A strong naval presence will bring many benefits to the emerging Lebanese economy including increasing investor confidence and lowering the cost of shipping operations in the Lebanese waters, both important factors in growing the country's economic output.

UNIFIL MTF currently has 824 uniformed naval personnel and seven ships: two from Bangladesh and one each from Brazil, Germany, Greece, Indonesia and Turkey. There are two onboard helicopters.

Overall UNIFIL has around 10,500 peacekeepers from 41 troop contributing countries. The Mission maintains an intensive level of operational and other activities amounting to some 13,500 activities per month to help keep the peace in south Lebanon.



NNA