85m tonnes of shipping passes through Gulf pinch points thanks to RN-led task force

More than 85 million tonnes of goods and fuel have passed safely through Middle East pinch points thanks to the efforts of a Royal Navy-led team over the winter.

Commodore Craig Wood has handed over leadership of Coalition Task Force Sentinel which helps safeguard shipping through some of the world’s most sensitive or dangerous waters.

The Bahrain-based task force – the operational arm of the International Maritime Security Construct, eight nations committed to ensuring lawful merchant shipping is not interfered with – uses a combination of small and major warships to safeguard waters between the Red Sea and the Gulf, in particular concentrating on the Bab al Mandeb and Hormuz straits.

Commodore Wood has been able to call on 79 different ships from five nations during nearly five months at the helm.

Major warships – the sentinels of the operation’s title such as the UK’s Bahrain-based frigate HMS Montrose – have ensured more than 900 merchant vessels from the IMSC nations (Albania, Bahrain, Estonia, Lithuania, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the USA) carrying over 85 million tonnes of goods have safely passed through the Middle East’s choke points.

As well as ships, air power – including long-range maritime patrol aircraft – has flown more than 14,000 hours of reconnaissance missions keeping an eye on the crucial waterways.

The task force has demonstrated the ability to consistently deter state-sponsored malign activity in this region

Commodore Adrian Fryer

Cdre Wood said interest in maritime security in the region from the merchant shipping industry was growing – as was the ability of the Operation Sentinel team and its partners in the Middle East to provide that security.

Vice Admiral Samuel Paparo, the senior US Navy officer in the region and commander of the US Fifth Fleet said Cdre Wood left Sentinel “a better, more effective task force and really ready to defend freedom of navigation through the personal touch and intellect, energy, dynamism, optimism.”

Cdre Wood has handed over the reins of Sentinel to fellow Brit Commodore Adrian Fryer who has more than 30 years’ experience in the Royal Navy under his belt, including command of three warships.

“The task force has demonstrated the ability to consistently deter state-sponsored malign activity in this region as shown by the fact that since its inception no IMSC-flagged commercial vessel has been substantially threatened or illegally boarded by an adversary,” said Cdre Fryer.

More than 17,000 ships per year pass through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait at the foot of the Red Sea and in excess of 42,000 vessels enter or leave the Gulf via the Strait of Hormuz. As the recent blockage of Suez has shown any restrictions of these waterways results in international consequences, impacting economies all over the globe.