Virtual baton passes between Royal Navy Commanders

The baton of safeguarding shipping safely entering and leaving the Gulf has passed between two Royal Navy officers – virtually.

From today Commodore Rob Bellfield is in charge of the International Maritime Security Construct, the military force established last year with the emphasis on ensuring merchant vessels pass through the Strait of Hormuz unimpeded.

One sixth of the world’s oil and around one third of its liquid natural gas, in addition to other cargos such as vehicles, foodstuffs and consumer goods, pass through the narrows – just 40 kilometres wide – every year.

To provide additional protection to shipping, the Construct was set up last year by seven nations – Australia, Albania, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and the United States – since when Lithuania has also joined the coalition.

Commodore James Parkin, Commander Littoral Strike Group

This team rose to this challenge of building the IMSC to what it is today. I have no doubt they will continue to hone this mission now that it is in the capable hands of my good friend Rob.

Commodore James Parkin – who’s normally in charge of the RN’s amphibious forces as Commander Littoral Strike Group – has commanded the Construct and its Operation Sentinel mission from its headquarters in Bahrain since the end of January.

He transferred command to Cdre Bellfied virtually – online, no handshakes or face-to-face meetings – given the coronavirus pandemic.

“This change of command – taking place virtually due to social-distancing measures – is the most unique ceremony in which I have participated,” Cdre Parkin said.

“Our coalition has grown since I took command,” said Parkin. “I expect that it will continue to grow. With increased membership comes greater influence over those who fail to respect the rule of international law, and over those who might want to interfere with the free flow of global trade.”

His staff, the numerous ships assigned to the mission and maritime patrol aircraft have all been working around the clock to ensure maritime security and to deter malign activity in the Middle East.

“I have had the privilege to command a capable and diverse group of sailors, marines and airmen from many nations, who I not only have come to trust, but have also relied upon for the last three months,” Cdre Parkin added.

“This team rose to this challenge of building the IMSC to what it is today. I have no doubt they will continue to hone this mission now that it is in the capable hands of my good friend Rob.”

Commodore Bellfield, until recently in charge of the Devonport Flotilla and a former deputy commander of the Royal Navy’s mission in the Middle East, said providing reassurance to the merchant shipping community was “paramount – especially during this unprecedented time of global pandemic

“Our mission remains focused on supporting global trade; it is more important than ever to shine a light on illegal actions and uphold the Rule of Law on the High Seas.”