Commodore Muhammad Hisham, Pakistan Navy relieved Rear Admiral Oguz Karaman Turkish Navy  as Commander Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 (counter-piracy), during a change of command ceremony onboard TCG Gemlik , Mina Salman, Bahrain, 13 December 2012.

The ceremony concluded the Turkish Navy’s third command of CTF 151, which consisted of a multi-national staff embarked in the flagship TCG Gemlik.

CTF151 Change of Command, Rear Admiral Karaman Turkish Navy (left) hands over command of CTF151 to Commodore Hisham of the Pakistan Navy (right) overseen by Commander Combined Maritime Forces ,Vice Admiral Miller United States Navy

The Turkish Navy has considerable counter-piracy experience in the region and has been involved with CTF 151 since its inception in 2009. Over the period of command there has been a significant reduction in piracy incidents by comparison to the same period in 2011. Although the redirection is pleasing, this does not signal the end to piracy in the region.  Rear Admiral Karaman said:

“There has been significant media reporting suggesting that the war on piracy has been won and we should all go home; however, pirates are determined and constantly modifying their behaviour as we adjust our processes to impede their tactics. It is therefore necessary for us to remain vigilant in our counter-piracy operations.”

On 21 November 2012 TCG Gemlik successfully interdicted a suspected pirates skiff 400 miles east of Somalia and 9 suspected pirates were transferred to EUNAVFOR Romanian warship, ROS Regale Ferdinand. No vessels were pirated during the Command period and two ships were released by pirates after almost 2 years in captivity.

Commenting on his command Rear Admiral Karaman said:

“When I assumed Command I set out a ‘no pirated vessels goal’ as my first priority. Other Command goals were to strengthen ties with other counter-piracy naval forces on operations in the region and to engage with regional nations. I’m pleased to report that those goals were achieved.”

Rear Admiral Karaman welcomed Commodore Muhammad Hisham saying his vision and leadership were quickly apparent and he was in no doubt that he would continue to drive forward CMF’s counter-piracy efforts. When asked about his imminent command Commodore Hisham said:

“I feel honored and humbled to take over Command of CTF 151. My priority will be deterrence and disruption of piracy for which I will require continuous support from CMF HQ. My focus will also be on positive engagement with the regional leadership for which a Key Leadership Engagement plan has been worked out.”

CTF 151 is one of three taskforces under the control of Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), based in Bahrain.  CTF 151 was established in 2009 to deter, disrupt and suppress piracy, protect maritime vessels of any nationality and secure freedom of navigation for the benefit of all. CTF 151’s area of operation encompasses 2.5 million square miles in the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin.

From left to right: His Excellency Ahmet Ulker Turkish Ambassador, Commodore Simon Ancona Royal Navy Deputy Commander CMF, Rear Admiral Oguz Karaman Turkish Navy, His Excellency Jauhar Saleem Ambassador of Pakistan and Commodore Muhammed Hisham Pakistan Navy.