RN-led Gulf security mission marks 12 months of success

A Royal Navy-led security mission in the Gulf has ensured safe passage for more than 1,100 merchant ships through hot spots in its first year.

Coalition Task Force Sentinel – formed last year in response to growing tensions and threats to shipping in the Middle East – today embraces nine nations dedicated to safe and free movement of oil, gas and goods in and out of the region.

Led by the Royal Navy since the end of January – firstly Commodore James Parkin, currently Commodore Rob Bellfield and, from later this month, Commodore Craig Wood – the force frequently makes use of the UK’s Bahrain-based frigate, HMS Montrose, to carrying out the mission.

Although the force is dedicated to general maritime security, it focuses on providing ‘over watch’ to merchant ships which fly the flag of nine member nations – together they make up the International Maritime Security Construct – such as the UK, USA and United Arab Emirates; in excess of 1,100 have been assisted to date.

Since the inception of the International Maritime Security Concept, there have been no attacks on flagged vessels. Mission success!

Commodore Rob Bellfield

The task force uses ‘sentinels’ (larger warships such as Montrose or destroyers operating in choke points) and ‘sentries’ (corvettes and patrol ships operating in waterways between the narrows) to both build up a complete picture of goings on in the Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el Mandeb Strait and southern Red Sea, and offer support and assistance to passing merchant ships.

The ships have been on station more than 28,000 hours collectively – 166 weeks, or more than three years – while helicopters and long-range maritime patrol aircraft have flown more than 13,000 hours (over 77 weeks) providing surveillance and intelligence.

The force also sends out more than two dozen reminders daily over the airwaves that it is on hand should merchantmen be threatened.

Almost 50 ships pass through the Bab el-Mandeb at the foot of the Red Sea every day, while an average of 115 vessels enter or leave the Gulf via the Strait of Hormuz. Any closure of these waterways has international consequences, impacting economies all over the globe.

Commodore Bellfield said the task force had made its mark immediately. “Since the inception of the International Maritime Security Concept, there have been no attacks on flagged vessels. Mission success!”