Commdore Abdul Aleem (left) succeeded Rear Admiral Sinan Ertugrul (right) as commander of CMF's counter-piracy effort. The ceremony took place aboard British frigate HMS Cornwall in Fujairah and was attended by Commodore Tim Fraser, Deputy CMF Commander. (Photo: Royal Navy).

The Pakistan Navy today assumed command of Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151).

Rear Admiral Sinan Ertugrul of the Turkish Navy was relieved by Commodore Abdul Aleem of the Pakistan Navy at a formal ceremony aboard the British frigate HMS Cornwall in Fujairah, UAE.

CTF-151 is one of three task forces operated by Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a 25-nation coalition based in Bahrain. It was established in January 2009 in order to deter, disrupt and suppress piracy, protecting maritime vessels of any nationality and securing freedom of navigation for the benefit of all. CTF-151’s area of operation encompasses an area of 1.1 million square miles in the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin.

“Pakistan has been a valued partner in Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) for many years now,” said Cdre. Tim Fraser, deputy commander, CMF. “They’ve had a major impact on maritime security operations in the region, having commanded CTF 150 four times and will now use those skills countering piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin in CTF 151.”

International Effort

Rear Admiral Ertugral said that although led by the Turkish Navy for the past three months, CTF-151 has remained very much a multi-national effort. Over the past three months he has commanded ships from Australia, Republic of Korea, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkey, the U.K. and U.S, while his command team has included personnel from Canada, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UK and US.

Somali Basin Coordination

In addition to commanding CTF-151, RAdm. Ertugrul also served as Somali Basin Coordinator, managing cooperation between CMF, NATO and EU counter-piracy missions, together with other independently deployed navies. This enabled naval forces along the Somali coastline and in the vicinity of known pirate camps to be deployed with maximum effect, not only preventing a large number of potential Pirate Action Groups from reaching open water, but also deterring many from leaving the beaches in the first place.

Regional Engagement

Relations between the three international counter-piracy missions were strengthened through extremely productive meetings between RAdm. Ertugrul and his counterparts from NATO and EUNAVFOR, together with the UN’s new special envoy on piracy, Mr Jack Lang.

The CTF-151 Flagship made port visits for purposes of regional engagement and goodwill to Manama (Bahrain), Port Victoria (Seychelles) and Mombassa (Kenya) and, significantly, to Dar-es-Salaam, the first ever such visit to Tanzania by a CTF-151 Commander. Meetings with the Tanzanian Minister of Defence, Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of Naval Operations; the Seychelles Chief of the Defence Staff and Head of the Coastguard; and Kenyan Chief of the Navy, together with other local and national leaders, established a shared understanding of the importance of dealing with piracy and have created the basis upon which friendship and cooperation can be further strengthened in the future.

Other major highlights during Turkey’s period in command include the daring recapture of the MV Magellan Star from pirate control, a major humanitarian rescue of refugees in the Gulf of Aden and the involvement of two Royal Thai Navy ships into CTF-151 for the first time, as well as an integrated British task group.

British frigate HMS Cornwall arrives in Fujairah, UAE, to assume the role of flagship of CMF's counter-piracy mission. (Photo: CMF).

Reflecting on the past three months, Rear Admiral Ertugrul said, “Given the importance of this region to international trade and the world economy, it could be argued that the problem of piracy has the potential to effect every individual on the planet. Consequently, during my period of command it has been clear to me that international cooperation must underpin everything we do.”

“The ships and aircraft under my command have scored some real and immediate victories through the disruption of suspected acts of piracy, the interception of individuals believed to be engaging in piracy and the destruction of weapons, fuel and other pirate material.”

“In the longer term, I think our greatest contribution has been in the Somali basin. Through our mutual cooperation and shared coordination, CTF-151 and our partner organisations have prevented many aspiring pirates from reaching the open ocean and, better still, in some cases from even leaving the beaches in the first place. Ultimately, there are merchant ships sailing freely today that would not be doing so was it not for the efforts of CTF-151.”

Looking to the future, RAdm. Ertugrul said, “Those who seek to commit piracy at sea have shown themselves to be resourceful and flexible, modifying their behaviour as we frustrate their tactics. Naval forces must therefore remain astute and adaptable. However, the pirates should know this: we are here to stay as long as is necessary.”

This was the second occasion time Turkey has led CTF-151. Rear Admiral Caner Bener of the Turkish Navy was in command from May 3 2009 to Aug 3 2009.