Currently Commanded by:
Republic Of Korea Navy
Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151) is one of four task forces operated by Combined Maritime Forces (CMF).
In accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and in cooperation with CMF coastal states, CTF 151’s mission is to take actions, within its area of operations, to directly suppress piracy outside territorial waters of Coastal States, in coordination with EUNAVFOR; indirectly target trafficking of humans and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by gathering and sharing information; provide TF input into Information and Strategic Communications effects; and conduct Key Leaders Engagements and Capacity Building activities, in order to contribute to deter illicit non-state actors from the use of the high seas, develop capacity for regional leadership and reassure the international community.
CTF 151 was established in January 2009, with a specific piracy mission-based mandate, currently endorsed under UNSCR 2608 (2021), in order to contribute to the protection of commerce free flow.
Modern-day piracy off the coast of Somalia has grown from the economic, social and political strife that has gripped the country since the mid-1990s. The rise of piracy in the region can be linked directly to the fall of the government in 1991 when gangs operated under local clan loyalty and warlord leadership facilitated by the vacuum of national governance.
During the second phase of the Somali Civil War in 2000, foreign ships exploited the absence of an effective national coast guard and illegally exploited Somali fishing grounds as well as dumping illicit waste that would further diminish the local fishing stocks. Local communities responded by forming armed groups to deter invaders. This grew into a lucrative trade, whereby such groups would hijack commercial vessels and ask for large ransom payments.
There was an unsuccessful attack by pirates in the Somali Basin in April 2019, however, the last two successful piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia were in the spring of 2017 and these were the first successful attacks since 2012.
CTF 151 is a multinational force. Command is rotated between participating nations on a three to six month basis. Countries that have led CTF 151 include Bahrain, Brazil, Denmark, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Pakistan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, the UK, and the USA. A variety of countries assign vessels, aircraft and personnel to the task force.
In conjunction with the European Union Naval Force Somalia (EUNAVFOR), and together with independently deployed naval ships from nations such as China, CTF 151 helps to patrol the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC).
The EUNAVFOR Operation ATALANTA military maritime mission was instigated by the EU in 2008 in response to the unprecedented Somali piracy crisis that affected the Gulf of Aden and wider Indian Ocean. It works in conjunction with CMF, the maritime industry and together with partner missions inside Somalia such as the World Food Programme, United Nations (UN) and other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
By following the guidance provided in Best Management Practices Rev. 5 (BMP5), merchant vessels will reduce the chances of being successfully attacked by piracy and/or small, high-speed boats using small arms, rocket-propelled grenades, and explosives.
CMF supports BMP5, as promoted by the commercial shipping community. BMP5 offers advice and guidance on avoiding and deterring piracy and is targeted at seafarers who intend to travel through the Gulf of Aden, Somali Basin, and the Indian Ocean. Measures include: maintaining a proactive 24-hour lookout; reporting suspicious activities to authorities; removing access ladders; protecting the lowest points of access; the use of deck lighting, netting, razor wire, electrical fencing, fire hoses and surveillance and detection equipment; engaging in evasive maneuvering and speed during an attack; and joining group transits.
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As shown in the table above, several countries have contributed to carrying out the CTF 151 mission. Although, there have been no incidents of piracy off the Horn of Africa reported in the last years. The potential for piracy is suppressed, but not eradicated, therefore CTF 151’s mission to deter and disrupt piracy and armed robbery at sea remains as vital as ever.