RN hands over command of anti-terror task force to Saudi partners

The Royal Navy’s three-month tenure of command of an international task force tackling terrorism is over with the Saudis taking the reins for the first time.

Commodore Steve Moorhouse – soon to be the first Commanding Officer of new carrier HMS Prince of Wales – stood down from Combined Task Force 150 with Commodore Al-shahrani of the Royal Saudi Navy and his staff replacing the Brit and his team at a ceremony in Bahrain.

It is from the headquarters of the Combined Maritime Forces – which represents more than 30 nations committed to security of the high seas east of Suez – that the day-to-day actions of around half a dozen warships assigned to Combined Task Force 150 are directed.

Those ships patrol more than three million square miles of ocean on the lookout for suspicious vessels involved in any activity which supports or fund terrorism: chiefly drug running, but also arms trafficking and smuggling.

The success of the current UK-led iteration is the testament to the effect that nations working together can improve maritime security in this important region

Commodore Steve Moorhouse

Cdre Moorhouse’s predecessor scored a record 19 busts while in charge. In British hands, four successes have been chalked up – a smaller figure due in part to a shorter spell in command and also to the monsoon season dominating conditions at sea… and proving too challenging for the dhows typically involved in the illegal activities.

“The importance of CTF 150 remains as relevant today as when it was formed,” Cdre Moorhouse said. “The success of the current UK-led iteration is the testament to the effect that nations working together can improve maritime security in this important region.”

His staff comprised personnel from the UK, Canada, France and New Zealand and, beyond overseeing operations from Bahrain, he and some of his team visited countries in the region such as Djibouti, the UAE and Kenya to strengthen relations and improve the exchange of information.

As for his Saudi successor, this is the first time a Gulf Navy has headed the task force. Cdre Al-shahrani will be in charge for four months.