From 26 to 29 January, Commander Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150) Commodore (CDRE) Ray Leggatt travelled to Mumbai, India and Colombo, Sri Lanka for a series of key leadership engagements to discuss maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean and explore opportunities for collaboration and cooperation with both countries.

Supported by Royal Canadian and Royal New Zealand Navy staff, the Royal Australian Navy assumed command of CTF 150 in early December 2019 and will be relieved by France’s Marine Nationale in March 2020. Through maritime security operations, regional engagements, and capacity building activities, CTF 150 works to deter and deny terrorist organizations freedom of maneuvre in the maritime domain, impacting their use of the high seas for smuggling illicit cargo including narcotics, UN-embargoed weapons, and Somali charcoal.

CTF 150 is one of three combined task forces that make up Combined Maritime Forces, the 33 nation force aligned in common purpose to conduct Maritime Security Operations in the wider gulf region in order to provide security and stability in the maritime environment.

CDRE Leggatt met with Chief of Staff, Western Naval Command, Indian Navy, Vice Admiral (VADM) R.B. Pandit in Mumbai. Accompanying CDRE Leggatt was Commander (CMDR) Mitchell Livingstone, Commanding Officer of Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) TOOWOOMBA. TOOWOOMBA was alongside in Mumbai for a port visit on its way to the Middle East Region to conduct a deployment in support of CTF 150.

Although not a member of Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), India is a major stakeholder in the region due to its strategic location as well as knowledge and resources. The Indian Navy plays a vital role in maritime security in the Indian Ocean. Strengthening relationships with countries in the region who have a vested interest in promoting security and stability in the maritime domain is one of the primary objectives of CTF 150’s mission.

Following the successful engagement in India, CDRE Leggatt then travelled to Colombo, Sri Lanka to meet with Vice Admiral (VADM) Piyal De Silva, Chief of the Sri Lankan Navy as well as Mr. Alan Cole, Head of the Global Maritime Crime Program with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Like India, Sri Lanka is not a member of CMF, but is an important stakeholder in the region. The purpose of the visit was to maintain CMF’s relationship with Sri Lanka, enhancing maritime cooperation and working with UN partners to develop a global response to maritime security challenges.

At the Sri Lankan Naval Headquarters, VADM De Silva hosted a round table discussion on maritime security. CDRE Leggatt was joined by Commander (CMDR) Grant Coleman, CTF 150 Operations Officer, and Australian Defence Advisor to Sri Lanka, Group Captain (GPCAPT) Sean Unwin. The discussion focused on identifying trans-shipment points, challenges to maritime security in the region, and opportunities for cooperation and training.

“India and Sri Lanka are not CMF members but that doesn’t diminish the important role or the work they do in the region,” said CDRE Leggatt. “The sharing of information, cooperation at sea, and opportunities to train and share best practices are vital to promoting security in the Western Indian Ocean and that is something that benefits us all.”