Admiral Giuseppe de Giorgi
In the current multipolar world, characterized by widespread uncertainties and instabilities among different socioeconomic and political communities, the Mediterranean region represents a bridge between a stable north and an unstable, overcrowded south, with a spillover of threats at sea. It continues to be afflicted by unsolved Arab-Israeli disputes and exposed to the consequences of both Euro-Russian friction—also entailing EU energy-security concerns—Far East tensions, and the American pivot to Asia. The impacts of the Arab Spring and poor state control in countries like Libya, as well as terrorism related to Islamic fundamentalism, further exacerbate security, energy-supply, and immigration concerns. These issues originate beyond the boundaries of the region, and their dynamics are strictly correlated with those of the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Guinea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Indian Ocean—the so-called wider Mediterranean.
Against this background, Italy—a maritime country extending into the heart of the Mediterranean—relies on the sea for its growth, prosperity, and security for obvious geographic reasons, its processing economy, and the need for imported energy. The nation is increasingly dependent on both the ability to exploit the opportunities offered by the maritime commons and the need to protect its strategic interests at sea—the nation’s last exposed border—from threats such as terrorism, piracy, illegal migration, illegitimate territorialization of the high seas, merciless overfishing, intentional and accidental pollution, maritime degradation, and consequences of climate change.
This calls for continued commitment by the navy for the free and safe use of the sea, which is so important for our prosperity and security. It is a demanding mission and requires the capability to fulfill maritime-security and safety needs. The Italian government, understanding the importance of the renovation of our navy, has approved the acquisition of ten multipurpose escort ships, one logistic support, one amphibious, and two new-generation special-operations support ships, representing the first phase of a comprehensive modernization program of the fleet.
These units, fully interoperable with NATO and EU partners, will be more versatile than the current generation of ships, benefiting from an extensive use of the modularity concept. From the beginning of the design phase they were conceived with enhanced dual-use features. They are fit for military duty and equipped to support the civil-protection mission in case of natural disasters—for example with a modular hospital—to provide electrical power/drinkable water ashore and containers; search-and-rescue operations; and environmental protection.
Our new ships will have a smaller environmental footprint, further reducing polluting emissions by adopting natural liquefied gas, bio fuel, and fuel cells for propulsion purposes. Among these ships, the multipurpose offshore patrol vessels deserve a special mention, for their very high speed, long endurance, resilience, and seaworthiness. They will be able to rapidly intervene at long distances in a number of emergency situations, even in very adverse meteorological conditions. This new family of ships will become the backbone of our navy, which will be more agile, affordable, greener, and better suited to face the challenges of the 21st century.