Commodore Asif Hameed Siddiqui SI(M) from the Pakistan Navy has assumed command of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) counter-piracy operations from Rear Admiral Pakorn Wanich of the Royal Thai Navy at a ceremony in Bahrain on 26 February 2015. The ceremony marked Pakistan’s sixth command of Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151).
Rear Admiral Wanich, who has led CTF-151 since 25 November 2014, said:
“My command tenure of CTF 151 comes to an end today and I would like to take the opportunity to express my sincere thanks to CMF and all supporters that have contributed so valuably to our counter piracy mission. We could not have achieved the success we did without the staff officers from Pakistan, the Netherlands, Japan and Jordan who have been embedded in CTF-151 from the start.”
Rear Admiral Wanich, who returns to Thailand to become the Commander of the Amphibious and Combat Service Support Squadron, added:
“In my relatively short command period I have seen the level of cooperation and coordination in securing freedom of navigation and the safety of commercial shipping through the operational area grow. Tasked to be the Gulf of Aden and Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor coordinator and then taking on the counter-piracy coordinator role has brought Thailand’s CMF command to the forefront of strategic development for this very important mission, but there is, as always, still room for improvement.”
Vice Admiral John W Miller, the Commander of CMF, presided over the handover:
“We are here today to celebrate the passing of command from one great leader to another and from one nation to another. And with that comes the passing of great responsibility, authority and accountability. Ceremonies like this, allow us to formally recognise the accomplishments of the commander and fellow sailor.”
Noting the achievements of CTF-151 under Rear Admiral Wanich’s leadership, Vice Admiral Miller added:
“The remarkable success that you and your sailors have achieved, and your commitment to promoting freedom of navigation for all ships in this vital area are much appreciated, but by no means surprising. After all, the word Thai itself means “free.” Among your most impressive achievements of the last three months has been the coordination of focused operations in the Bab-el-Mandeb strait to reduce the amount of false alarms concerning piracy attacks. By reducing the amount of false alarms, the real threats of piracy are always treated with the urgency that is needed and millions of dollars are saved by maritime forces that respond to emergencies in this region.”
Turning to the incoming team from Pakistan, Vice Admiral Miller highlighted Commodore Asif’s planning and coordination experience, noting his ability to deliver in a high-tempo environment, which was proven during his previous role as the Commander of the Pakistan Navy’s 25 Destroyer Squadron.
“Commodore, with your vast experience and wisdom, Combined Task Force 151 will continue to excel and we welcome you, your wife and your children back to our Combined Maritime Forces family and to Bahrain.”
Commodore Asif, who previously served in CMF as the Chief of Staff to a previous Pakistani command of CTF-150, the counter-terrorism and maritime security task force, thanked Rear Admiral Wanich for ensuring a professional and orderly transition period and noted how important the work of CTF-151 is in protecting maritime trade and freedom of movement for seafaring nations.
“We are passing through uncertain and unpredictable times, where diverse threats are posed to the seagoing community on the high seas. Of these, piracy, although low at the moment, continues to present an intricate and extraordinary threat and still impacts energy security, freedom of navigation, and global security and stability. But no one nation alone can resolve this menace, as piracy is a shared challenge which can only be addressed through collaborative and comprehensive international efforts. During the command, I shall continue to deter and disrupt piracy while maintaining a flexible approach in coordination with CMF.”