There has been a change of command at the top of the international coalition securing shipping lanes in the Arabian Gulf.
The International Maritime Security Construct, or IMSC – known as Coalition Task Force Sentinel (CTF) – has been commanded by Commodore Rob Bellfield since it was established.
He has now handed over the reins to another British officer, Commodore Craig Wood.
Cdre Bellfield used more than 58 ships during his tenure and expanded the original scope of CTF Sentinal operations, leading efforts to improve the credibility of task force deterrence measures.
Handing over his command at a socially distanced ceremony in Bahrain, outgoing commander, Cdre Bellfield, described the experience of leading the group in the region.
"What a great experience, actually, and quite an unusual one as well, with first of all coming out here with a fairly independent command, I report up to the US Admiral here but other than that we are separate from any other task forces here," he said.
"It’s been highly rewarding, actually, in a very demanding and changing environment which has kept us on our toes throughout this period."
There are now nine member nations of the coalition – helping to safeguard shipping through some of the most important waterways in the world.
More than 17,000 ships pass through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait - gateway to the Red Sea - every year, with over 42,000 vessels entering or leaving the Gulf annually.
The growing coalition includes Albania, Australia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Lithuania, United Arab Emirates, the UK, US, and the newest member, Estonia, which voted to join the coalition last month.
Incoming Commodore Wood, a surface warfare officer with more than 30 years’ experience, has commanded warships on operations around the world including HMS Liverpool in 2007 and HMS Dragon in 2016.
Cdre Wood takes on the role after driving key work in the surface fleet, leading to his command of the Royal Navy’s Surface Flotilla.
He said: "Our job here at CTF Sentinel is to provide confidence, confidence in the maritime, confidence with our industry partners, confidence with merchant shipping, through our sentries and sentinels, our warships at sea, because instability here causes difficulties elsewhere."
Under Cdre Bellfield's command, more than 1,200 merchant ships, flying the flags of the coalition's member nations, sailed through the 'choke points' of the region incident-free, the Royal Navy said.