The Pakistan Navy has assumed command of Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, part of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), after conducting a handover ceremony with the French Navy. Rear Admiral Naveed Ahmed Rizvi assumed command of CTF 150 from Rear Admiral Olivier Lebas on 17th August 2017 during a ceremony held at Naval Support Activity in Manama, Bahrain.

As the curtain falls on the four months of French-UK command, with nearly 1.75 tons of narcotics seized worth more than half a billion US Dollars, the team has enjoyed remarkable success.

The French-UK command tenure was split into two distinct phases. The first, Operation Southern Surge, focused on countering narcotics traffickers to disrupt terrorist organisations and restrict their freedom of manoeuvre in the maritime domain. Eleven warships from 7 countries conducted 34 boardings of suspicious vessels between them. Large narcotics seizures were made by the French frigate Surcouf, Australian frigate HMAS Arunta, and the UK’s HMS Monmouth. The operation was supported by 35 maritime patrol aircraft sorties spanning 210 hours of flight time.

The second phase of the command tenure from mid-June was focused on providing naval presence in the vicinity of the Bab Al Mandeb Strait to reassure the international maritime community after incidents involving merchant shipping in the area. Several warships patrolled the area, conducting transits through the crucial maritime trade corridor and upholding the free flow of commerce and shipping.

Additionally, the Commander of CTF 150, Admiral Lebas has sought to increase coordination with regional forces and actors outside of Combined Maritime Forces. Key leadership engagement was conducted with regional defence forces, law enforcement agencies, political bodies and NGOs in Kenya, Tanzania, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Madagascar and Saudi Arabia. CTF 150 warships were able to conduct capacity building, such as boarding training with local coast guards, enabling the sharing of proven techniques and best practices. Such visits further enhance the operation by building mutually beneficial relationships and improved information exchange.

Handing over command, Admiral Lebas said: “It has been my honour to lead this outstanding team of professionals who have worked diligently to achieve the CMF mission.

“I am delighted by the successes that the CMF ships and aircraft operating in support of CTF 150 have enjoyed. They have worked tirelessly to suppress terrorist activities by attacking the networks that fund them and deterring the unlawful use of the seas in this area of the world.”

Under a French lead, the staff of CTF 150 was the first combined French-UK command which has operationalised French-UK naval co-operation under the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF). This framework was initiated in 2010 under the Lancaster House Agreement between Paris and London. The staff also included officers from Belgium, Italy and Australia, and exercised command over ships and aircraft from several CMF participating nations.