The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) handed over command of Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) Combined Task Force 151 (CTF151) to the Kuwait Naval Force during a formal ‘Change of Command Ceremony’ at the CMF Headquarters in Bahrain.

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Rear Admiral Saw (L) hands over command of CTF151 to Captain Al Rashidi (R) of the Kuwait Naval Force. Vice Admiral Stearney, Commander of CMF presides.

With the Kuwait Navy now in command of CTF 151, this is the first time all three CTFs have been led by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations. It is also the first time that Kuwait has commanded two CTFs simultaneously – they assumed command of CTF152, responsible for maritime security in the Gulf, earlier in the month. The third CTF, 150, responsible for maritime security and counter terrorism operations in the Middle East is commanded by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The ceremony was presided over by Vice Admiral (VAdm) Scott Stearney USN, Commander US Naval Forces Central Command, Commander US Fifth Fleet and Commander Combined Maritime Forces. Speaking about the team from Singapore, VAdm Stearney said: “Whether it was improving our relationships with key leaders in the region, overseeing hundreds of hours of airborne surveillance of critical maritime reaches, or keeping the sea lanes of the Gulf of Aden safe while rendering assistance to mariners at risk when needed, Commander CTF 151, Rear Admiral Saw and his team left an impressive mark on the Combined Maritime Forces. The good performance by the team is also a testament to the professionalism, dedication and commitment of the members of the Singapore Armed Forces”.

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CTF151 is responsible for counter piracy across a large area of operations in the Northern Indian Ocean, although the focus remains on the chokepoints for maritime traffic, such as the Bab Al Mandeb strait at the Southern end of the Red Sea and the Somali Basin. Thanks to the efforts of CTF151 and other agencies such as the European Union’s Naval Force (EUNAVFOR), piracy has been suppressed in the region, although the root causes of piracy still remain present.

Under the RSN’s command, CTF151 led Focused Operation Vigilant Lion, which involved personnel from 24 different countries, 21 warships and 9 adjacent task forces. This Focused Operation strengthened links between all the countries involved and improved the sharing of critical counter piracy information as well as setting a solid foundation for future counter piracy operations.

The operations and exercises enabled CTF 151 to strengthen the processes and linkages amongst counter-piracy stakeholders, which aided the CTF to mount effective operations for many maritime incidents at sea, including the medical evacuation of a sailor on a commercial ship. The swift response to this incident built confidence in maritime community and demonstrated that in the event of a piracy incident all stakeholders can work seamlessly together.

Rear Admiral Saw of the RSN said: “Singapore is a maritime nation, and the uninhibited flow of seaborne trade is absolutely critical to our nation’s prosperity and survival. We will continue to contribute towards efforts to protect global maritime trade and to ensure the free flow of commerce.”

The incoming Commander is Captain Ali Al Rashidi of the Kuwait Naval Force. He completed his initial officer training in Germany and has worked in the US Naval Command College in Newport, Rhode Island, USA as well as commanding a number of Kuwait Naval Force vessels.

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Captain Al Rashidi said: “It’s an enormous privilege for the Kuwait Naval Force and myself to take command of CTF151.  As a member of the GCC, this is our region, it’s exciting and makes us very proud that the GCC countries command all three combined task forces simultaneously for the first time. It demonstrates the very tangible benefits of CMF. The maritime security operations that CMF undertakes ensure the free flow of commerce and freedom of navigation. This is important, whether it’s viewed from the global perspective, or from that of the region.”

While the Kuwait Naval Force will have command, they have military personnel from seven other countries on the staff, making them a true multi-national coalition. They work together to enhance regional maritime security and deter piracy. The new CTF151 includes a representative from Oman for the first time, recognizing that countries must work in cooperation and coordination with each other to ensure piracy remains suppressed.