A Royal Navy-led Gulf security mission has ensured safe passage for more than 1,100 merchant ships, with “no attacks on flagged vessels” in its first year.
Coalition Task Force Sentinel was set up last year in response to growing tensions and increased threats to shipping in Middle Eastern waters.
Headed up by the Navy since the end of January, Task Force Sentinel protects the merchant vessels of the International Maritime Security Construct – made up of nine nations, including the UK, USA and the United Arab Emirates.
The task force safeguards the freedom of navigation of merchant vessels carrying oil, gas and goods from the Arabian Gulf, through the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el Mandeb Strait, to the Southern Red Sea.
More than 17,000 ships a year pass through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and more than 42,000 ships a year pass through the Strait of Hormuz, and any closure of these waterways could have serious international economic consequences.
The force uses ‘sentinels’ (larger warships such as HMS Montrose or destroyers working in choke points) and ‘sentries’ (patrol ships and corvettes working in waterways between the narrows).
Additionally, airborne surveillance assets are employed to monitor the flow of traffic through the highest risk areas.
A collective total of more than three years has been spent by the ships on station. Helicopters and long-range maritime patrol aircraft have flown the equivalent of more than 77 weeks in their efforts to provide surveillance and intelligence.
Commander of Task Force Sentinel, Commodore Rob Bellfield said: “Since the inception of the International Maritime Security Concept, there have been no attacks on flagged vessels. Mission success!”
He added that there is "no doubt about the credibility of deterrence our task force brings against any threat to the stability of this essential region”.
Cover image: HMS Montrose sails with merchant company in the southern Gulf (Picture: Royal Navy).