Indian Ocean: Royal Navy Team Takes Charge of ITF
Leading the fight against piracy across 2.5 million square miles of the Indian Ocean from yesterday is a Royal Navy team who have taken charge of the international task force.
It is the first time the Senior Service has been in charge of Combined Task Force 151, half a dozen ships from half a dozen nations whose sole aim is to deter, disrupt and, if necessary, hunt down modern day pirates.
The British-led staff joined support ship RFA Fort Victoria, which will serve as their command ship for the duration of the Royal Navy’s tenure of command.
Heading the effort is Cdre Jeremy Blunden, former commanding officer of HMS Newcastle and Bulwark, who took charge of the force – currently comprising ships from the USA, Pakistan, Turkey, South Korea and Australia as well as Fort Vic – and is determined to build on the success of Cdre Muhammed Ihsan Qadir, from whom he took the reins of CTF 151 last week.
Although pirate attacks have fallen in recent years – there were over 170 in 2010 and 2011, just three dozen last year and only a handful this year as a result of the military effort, and improved ship security guidelines – Cdre Blunden says the threat remains and the international effort must persist.
“The pirates have run out of hostage vessels and it is highly likely they may try to resume their activity when the sea state calms and conditions become more conducive between the monsoons this autumn. We will need to be constantly on our guard,” he said.
“I am delighted to command this unique multinational force at sea tasked with protecting the free flow of global maritime commerce.”
CTF 151 is one of three task forces operating under the banner of the 29-nation Combined Maritime Force dedicated to safeguarding the waters east of Suez (CTF 150 tackles terrorism and smuggling in the Indian Ocean, 152 deals with securing the Gulf).
Given that international effort, as well as Royal Navy personnel on Cdre Blunden’s staff, there are also personnel from the USA, France, Denmark, Chile, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.
”I am incredibly proud to be part of this UK-led counter-piracy team and I relish the challenges ahead,” said 29-year-old Leading Seaman Steven Malcolm from Plymouth, one of the British members of the battle staff.
Press Release, September 11, 2013; Image: Royal Navy