A Turkish Ship, working in direct support of Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) counter-piracy task force CTF-151, has undertaken the first focused operation Whātoro (New Zealand Māori for Outreach) with Yemeni forces in the Bab-al-Mandeb straight.
TCG Gemlik was also supported by a Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force P3C Maritime Patrol Aircraft operating from Djibouti. The aim of the operation was to enhance cooperation between regional participants in counter piracy operations and develop a better understanding of the pattern of life in the Bab-al-Mandeb strait.
Commander of CTF-151, Commodore Tony Millar, of the Royal New Zealand Navy was very pleased with the outcome of the operation, especially enhancing the understanding of the pattern of life within the Bab-al-Mandeb strait.
He said: “Cooperation between CTF-151 and Yemeni forces facilitates regional force participation in counter-piracy operations and I personally thank them for their professional support. Engagement is critical in order to improve sharing and regional capabilities in general, but also to directly contribute to a key counter-piracy objective of decreasing the piracy false alarm rate in the Bab-al-Mandeb strait.”
The Bab-al-Mandeb strait is bordered by Yemen, Djibouti and Somalia with a combined local population of 34 million people. TCG Gemlik was tasked to not only inform local mariners of how their actions affect the larger merchant vessels but also to provide reassurance that naval units are actively patrolling the area.
Operation Whātoro is the first comprehensive exercise in which CTF-151 and Yemen have worked together in associated support, it’s also the first time personnel from Turkey and Yemen have conducted a joint naval exercise. Engagement with local fishermen and mariners was another key objective of CTF-151 in order to inform them how their movements can be interpreted by passing shipping.
Commodore Millar added:
“The first step towards change is understanding. It is believed that the high piracy false alarm rate stems in part from merchant vessels not being aware of the normal patterns of life in the Bab-al-Mandeb strait and from local craft not being aware of the alarms they trigger when approaching merchant vessels.”
The exercise began with a test of the ships’ ability to conduct operations in adverse weather conditions, with a three metre swell and high winds in the northern approaches to the Bab-al-Mandeb strait. TCG Gemlik also has embarked translators to liaise with the mariners and also provide to feedback about ways to improve relations with the local mariners and gather a better understanding of their way of life.
Commander Huseyin Tigli, Commander of TCG Gemlik, said:
“It is clear that focused operation Whātoro has provided an excellent opportunity to interact with the local fishing and merchant trade community, to better understand the views and behaviours of mariners in the area, allowing a safer maritime environment for all users of one of the busiest shipping routes in the world.”
CTF-151 is a multinational task force which conducts counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. The aim is to deter, disrupt and prevent acts of piracy. CTF-151 operates in an area of international waters of more than 1.1 million square miles (2.5 million square kilometres), roughly the size of the Mediterranean and Red Seas combined.