Mercantile Mission: The Italian aircraft carrier Cavour leaves the Civitavecchia harbor Nov. 13 for a tour of 13 African and seven Arabian Gulf countries for commercial, diplomatic and humanitarian purposes. (Andreas Solaro/Agence France-Presse via Getty Imag)
ABU DHABI — An Italian aircraft carrier’s humanitarian mission around the Arabian Gulf and Africa was put to the test while bound for the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) capital last month.
The Cavour, the crown jewel of the Italian Navy and its newest aircraft carrier, received a distress call from a fishing boat, which was traveling off the Omani coast Nov. 27.
According to Rear Adm. Paolo Treu, commander of the Italian Navy’s 30th Navy Group, a helicopter from the ship scrambled to the scene and a medical team was winched down to assist the boat’s captain, who was suffering from heart problems.
“We then contacted the hospital in Salalah [Oman] and transported the man for treatment 120 kilometers from the location,” he said. “We were very happy we could save a life.”
The 30th Navy Group is being deployed in the region for the first time on a mission to connect with other navies while drumming up business for Italian industry. Defense firms are paying for a portion of the deployment and companies such as Finmeccanica, Fincantieri, Elettronica and Beretta are along for the ride.
Cavour deployed with the newest Italian frigate, Bergamini, alongside the patrol vessel Comandante Borsini and the supply ship Etna.
“We are here to use training areas in the region, to train and build cooperation in anti-piracy operations, to build relations and carry out humanitarian operations,” he said.
Treu said they will conduct exercises with the UAE, Qatari, Bahraini and Kuwaiti navies.
When the ship left Italy on Nov. 13, Italian Navy Chief Adm. Giuseppe De Giorgi said the mission would help spur cooperation with allied navies, including Mozambique, where the Italian and local navies are due to sign a cooperation deal.
The marketing of Italian naval vessels was also on the agenda in the Arabian Gulf, Morocco, South Africa and Mozambique, while in Angola, talks would continue about Italian industry helping to develop a new type of vessel for the local navy, he said.
The 27,600-ton Cavour has been involved in marketing activities before. In 2010, its maiden mission took it to earthquake-stricken Haiti, bringing aid, earth-moving vehicles, hospital facilities and 900 personnel. It also stopped off in Brazil, ostensibly to take on Brazilian medical personnel, but also to support Rome’s efforts to market naval vessels to Brazil.
On Dec. 3, the admiral and commanders of the 30th Group welcomed UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan.
“The visit of Sheikh Abdullah is a great opportunity to show him what Italy can do,” the admiral said. “When you see a ship like this, you realize we have a lot of industrial capabilities. In this ship there is the genius and excellence of Italian industry. We are very proud he is visiting the ship. It is a sign of cooperation between the UAE and Italy.”
“This is a boost for the continued relationship between our two countries, and I am delighted they are here. I hope we can continue to build on this relationship for the benefit of both the UAE and Italy,” Abdullah said.