Search our content

Home  /  Missions  /  Operations Archive  /  Operation OCEAN SHIELD



NATO Operation Ocean Shield was NATO’s contribution to international efforts to combat piracy off the Horn of Africa, that ran between Aug. 17, 2009 and Dec. 15, 2016. 

NATO's role was to provide naval escorts and deterrence posture in the region while increasing cooperation with other counter-piracy operations, which was carried out in full compliance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

Command and Control of the operation was exercised by the NATO military chain of command, with the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) delegating operational command to NATO Maritime Command in Northwood, United Kingdom. NATO Allies provided ships and maritime patrol aircraft to NATO Standing Maritime Groups, which in turn assigned a number of ships, on a rotational basis, to Ocean Shield.


NATO naval forces operated off the Horn of Africa, including the Gulf of Aden and the Western Indian Ocean up to the Strait of Hormuz, an area greater than 2 million square miles or approximately the size of Western Europe. With the consent of Somali authorities, NATO vessels were able to also enter the territorial waters of Somalia. Operations on Somali land were not part of the NATO mandate.

 Area of Operation


NATO vessels conducted intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions to verify the activity of shipping off the coast of Somalia, separating out legitimate maritime traffic from suspected pirate vessels. Commercial ships that are transiting the area were monitored and in many cases escorted to ensure their safe passage. The shipping industry was in regular contact with NATO and the other counter piracy operations through the NATO Shipping Centre, where pirate activity can be reported and shared to prevent attacks and enhance situational awareness of the maritime environment. NATO ships also actively pursued suspected pirate ships to prevent them from staging attacks. NATO boarding teams could board a suspect vessel to determine if pirates were on board. NATO vessels could also use force to stop a pirate vessel or intervene in a hijacking. Any detained pirates were transferred immediately to a designated national law enforcement agency. In addition NATO, along with its partners, worked with the maritime community to ensure that both merchant ships and crews were aware of Best Management Practices 4 (BMP 4) which gives advice on how to protect vessels against pirate attacks.  

Search our content:


HQ Allied Maritime Command
MARCOM Records Centre
Information Management Branch
Northwood HQ, Atlantic Building
Sandy Lane, Northwood HA6 3HP
United Kingdom

Media Operations

Public Affairs Office
Atlantic Building, Northwood HQ