Following a request from the United States-led Combined Maritime Forces Headquarters, Captain Jim Gilmour of the Royal New Zealand Navy will take command of the multinational anti-piracy Combined Task Force (CTF 151), for three months from 30 June 2011.
Operating in the Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, Somali Basin and Arabian Sea, CTF 151 is one of three task forces operated by the 25 member Combined Maritime Forces, headquartered alongside the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain.
As a small, remote trading nation, New Zealand is highly dependent on the security of sea lanes. The decision to contribute confirms Wellington’s awareness of the danger posed by piracy in the distant reaches of the Indian Ocean. As Defence Minister Dr Wayne Mapp noted in announcing Captain Gilmour’s appointment:
Piracy in the Gulf of Aden poses a real threat to international shipping. Last year’s Defence White Paper highlights New Zealand’s national interest in countering the threat from piracy. New Zealand relies on its sea lanes for nearly all of its trade. Our economy is impacted by piracy, even far from our shores. By sending a command team to this multinational task force, New Zealand is showing its commitment to protecting security and stability in the international maritime environment.
Previously commander of HMNZS Canterbury, Captain Gilmour will take command of CTF 151 from Rear Admiral Harris Chan of the Republic of Singapore Navy on 30 June.
Established in January 2009 under United Nations Security Council Resolutions, CTF 151 is charged with preventing piracy by patrolling the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) in the Gulf Aden. In a recent encounter highlighting the multinational nature of CTF 151, the guided missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf successfully intercepted a suspected pirate skiff near the IRTC on 15 June, following its sighting by a Japanese maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft. CTF 151 vessels also liaise with warships from the European Union Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR) and those deployed independently by other countries, such as China and India.
Leighton G. Luke
FDI Indian Ocean Research Programme
 The current members of CTF 151 are: Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States.