Monday, August 10, 2020

New HQ for British Led Guardians of Vital Middle East Waterways

Units Oversee Safe Transit for Shipping
Shipping News Feature

UK – BAHRAIN – Coalition Task Force (CTF) Sentinel, the British-led operational arm of the multi-national International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) which oversees the transit of shipping as it passes through key waterways in the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Oman, has a new headquarters.

Last week IMSC held a ribbon cutting ceremony, limited by the inevitable social distancing, on board Naval Support Activity Bahrain to formally open the new operational headquarters for the outfit which deploys ships and aircraft throughout the region as part of the international surveillance and detection effort, ensuring freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waters.

Such a presence is the force which has limited acts of terror and piracy after a period in which attacks on tankers, container ships and fishing vessels was becoming commonplace. The new and improved space will enhance the flow of information and allow for greater coordination in tracking merchant shipping passage through dangerous waters. Cdre. Rob Bellfield, CTF Sentinel Commander, paid particular praise to the contributions made by regional partners who are members of the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC).

“Our partners in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates share their exceptional political and geographic knowledge of the region. They know this region intimately because this is their home, which they graciously share with us. The interoperability between Sentry ships from the region and Sentinel ships from Australia, the United Kingdom and United States, as well as regional Naval Operation Centres, highlights the close relationship we have allowing CTF Sentinel to maintain an operational strength we may not otherwise achieve.”

Since the opening of the watch floor in November 2019, the Task Force Sentinel team has continued to expand in both capability and capacity. Vice Adm. Jim Malloy, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces praised the enduring commitment of all nations that contribute to the free flow of merchant shipping through some of the world’s busiest sea lanes, and acknowledging the latest milestone said:

“IMSC’s success comes from standing and working together. This coalition fulfils a much-needed role. Its watchwords of ‘Vigilance, Surveillance, and Assurance’ tell you exactly what CTF Sentinel is about and why the task force plays such a key role in the region. They are providing the much-needed collective eyes and ears to some of the world’s most congested, contested waters.”

HMS Montrose, a Coalition Task Force (CTF) Sentinel warship, has been patrolling the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) in the Gulf of Aden which connects to the Red Sea via the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, one of the world’s most important maritime choke points, just 18 miles wide at its narrowest point. Providing an outlet to the west for oil and gas, it is estimated that up to six million barrels of oil and nearly 3.5 billion cubic feet of liquid natural gas pass through these waters each day, rich targets for those with no good on their minds, and Royal Navy Commodore Rob Bellfield, CTF Sentinel commander concluded:

“Our ships routinely patrol these waters in order to provide reassurance to merchant vessels, maintain freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce. The Gulf of Aden is one of the most strategically important waterways in the Middle East region and it is vitally important that seafarers feel safe operating in the area.

“The IRTC was established in 2009 to concentrate merchant vessels transiting in a defined area. Based on the concept of safety in numbers, the IRTC allows warships to easily patrol the area providing reassurance to merchant shipping. The attempted attack on the Motor Tanker Gladiolus on March 20, and attack on the Motor Tanker Stolt Apal on May 20 demonstrate the importance of international organisations such as the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) providing security in this area.”

The UK took over command of the CTF Sentinel operation from the US in January in a coalition which now includes Albania, Australia, Bahrain, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States in the operation which began its activities in November 2019 under the Middle East-based International Maritime Security Construct after increased threats to shipping in the region.

Photo: Vice Adm. Jim Malloy right, H.M.A Roderick Drummond, British Ambassador to Bahrain, centre, and Royal Navy Commodore Rob Bellfield, left, walk through the sideboys before entering the new International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) headquarters on board Naval Support Activity Bahrain Aug. 6, 2020. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Dawson Roth, US Naval Forces Central Command / US 5th Fleet.