Italian Aircraft Carrier at Jeddah Port in ‘Daring’ Campaign

Members of the press, students and citizens and expatriates were welcomed on board the aircraft carrier Cavour, the newest flagship of the Italian Navy, which arrived in Jeddah Islamic Port on Monday and will stay until Friday.

The 30th Italian Naval Group, consisting of Cavour, logistic supply ship Etna, frigate Bergamini and patrol ship Borsini, is on a “daring and ambitious” campaign that will see it cross the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Ocean and the Arabic Gulf, ending with the circumnavigation of Africa, visiting 20 ports of 18 different nations, including the United Arab Emirates, Oman, South Africa, Morocco and Algeria. A total of more than 1,200 sailors and marines have been embarked on the ships for this mission, including some 100 women.

According to Rear Adm. Paolo Treu, commander of the Naval Group 30, what makes the campaign of 146 days “daring and ambitious” is the wide range of objectives the mission carries, not only in fields directly related to the navy but also in humanitarian and promotional fields.

“We are ready to show the world what Italy can do, displaying products and capabilities of excellence not only in the military world and the industrial field, but also in the humanitarian one,” Treu said, referring to the humanitarian assistance mission to be carried out in various African countries.

More than 200 surgeries, to be performed in the two surgery rooms on board the aircraft carrier, have already been scheduled, he said, adding that the Cavour features 32 hospital beds in addition to 12 intensive care and emergency rooms.

The humanitarian mission will be conducted in cooperation with Operation Smile Nonprofit Organization, RAVA Nonprofit Foundation, and volunteer nurses from the Italian Red Cross in collaboration with the Red Crescent.

Other objectives the 36,000 km-long campaign will try to accomplish include training crew in tropical climate and open seas; interactions with allied navies and friendly nations to enhance interoperability and integration; providing deterrence wherever and whenever necessary, ensuring protection of merchant shipping and fighting against piracy, Treu continued.

The latter is especially important for countries along the Mediterranean Sea, as piracy in the seas leading to the Suez Canal directly diminishes trade in those countries.

He said thanks to the efforts of the EU and NATO, no piracy incidents had taken place along the coast of Somalia during the past year. However, he warned that pirates were appearing in new areas in Africa, stressing that continued deterrence was necessary to keep pirates away.
In the cooperation field, Treu said, the objective is to promote joint exercises and training to develop the capabilities of some of the navies of the visited countries, while the circumnavigation of Africa would focus on humanitarian assistance.

The campaign will also support national foreign affair policy by offering support for intergovernmental meetings and attending regional events, such as the UAE National Day celebrations, Qatar National Day and the Air Defense Exhibition in Kuwait.

Italian Ambassador Mario Boffo, who came to Jeddah specially for the visit of the Naval Group 30, said while the Kingdom and Italy already enjoyed outstanding relations, “Italy wants to be more present” not only in the gastronomical and cultural fields but also in the industrial and technological fields.

Produced by Italy, the two ships that are visiting Jeddah represent the technology and maritime tradition Italy has, Boffo said, adding that recently, big celebrations to commemorate the 80-year relationship between the two countries had been organized in Rome.

A peculiar objective related to displaying Italian entrepreneurial excellence is to promote the World Exposition (EXPO) in Milan in 2015, the rear admiral said, while promoting Italian products in important emerging markets. It is the first time an aircraft carrier hosts such an exposition.

The mission is also unique in its wide range of public and private stakeholders involved in the campaign, such as the Italian ministers of foreign affairs, economic development, and cultural activities and tourism; the Institute of Foreign Commerce and various manufacturers ranging from electronic defense equipment and shipbuilding to wood and furniture.

During its five-day stopover in Jeddah, several activities have been planned, such as tours for people and students interested in the ship, a lunch for Italian Business Group members and a lecture about Islam in Sicily by Italian professor Francesca Corrao.  [via]

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