With the conflict in Yemen now starting to spill out into neighbouring seas, the spotlight is once again falling on naval forces to ensure that maritime trade can continue to flow unimpeded into the Middle East region. That responsibility is very much on the shoulders of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a unique multinational collective of more than 30 like-minded nations dedicated to promoting security and free flow of commerce across 3.2 million square miles of international waters in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Somali Basin, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf. Headquartered at the US Naval Support Activity in Bahrain, CMF is commanded by a US Navy vice admiral (who also serves as Commander US Navy Central Command and US Navy Fifth Fleet), with a UK Royal Navy commodore as his deputy. Operations are executed by three combined task forces: CTF 150 (maritime security and counterterrorism), CTF 151 (counter piracy) and CTF 152 (Arabian Gulf security and co-operation).
CMF is today comprised of 31 member nations: Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Jordan, the Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, the Philippines, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, the Seychelles, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the UK, the USA and Yemen. Participation is purely voluntary, and member nations are not bound by either a political or military mandate. The contribution from each varies depending on its ability to contribute assets, and the availability of those assets at any given time: contributions can vary from the provision of a liaison officer at CMF HQ in Bahrain to the deployment of warships or support vessels in task forces, and land-based maritime reconnaissance aircraft. CMF s main focus areas are disrupting terrorism, preventing piracy, reducing illegal activities, and promoting a safe maritime environment for all. Speaking to Jane s last year, Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan, Commander, US Naval Forces Central Command, US Fifth Fleet, and Combined Maritime Forces, made clear the imperative for security at sea: Nearly 20 per cent of the world s oil transits through the Strait of Hormuz every day, he said. Imagine the impact on the global economy if suddenly that oil stops flowing because of restricted sea lanes. This region is clearly important to the whole world.
The sea continues to be the lifeblood of the world economy, added Commodore Will Warrender, commander of the UK Maritime Component Command in Bahrain and deputy commander of CMF. The protection of the seas, and our proficiency in ensuring that we maintain the capability to provide security, will remain a key maritime responsibility.
Of course, to do this we need to ensure that we, along with our partners, have the capability and confidence to act together. The best method to ensure this is to train both as individuals, but most importantly, collectively as a team.
This is most visibly demonstrated by the regular International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX), which has now widened its aperture to address a range of defensive operations designed to protect international commerce and trade. Last year s event, IMCMEX 2016 , was claimed to be the world s largest maritime exercise, reflecting both the number of participants (more than 30 drawn from six continents) and the vast geographical spread of its activities over an area of operations from the Suez Canal down through the Red Sea to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, through the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, and into the Gulf. These vast sea areas provided the venue for fleet tactical exercises focused on mine countermeasures, maritime infrastructure protection, and maritime security operations.
The participating nations are united by a common thread: the need to protect the free flow of commerce from a range of maritime threats including piracy, terrorism, and mines, said Vice Admiral Donegan. This exercise is also a great opportunity for us to build proficiency and test the latest technology available for ensuring the global maritime commerce stays open and secure. It also allows us to work with our partners to reinforce adherence to the international rules and accepted behavioural norms expected of professional mariners.
Commodore Warrender added: IMCMEX demonstrates the capability and co-operation of the international community and is not about any one nation or group. Our aim is to conduct exercises with our partner nations that allow us to continue to develop our interoperability and capability to ensure that we are ready to meet potential challenges now and in the future.
No one nation here is big enough to be able to address the whole problem, but no one nation is so small that their contribution doesn t matter.
ISLAMABAD – Commander Sri Lanka Navy Vice Admiral RC Wijegunaratne has lauded the efforts of Pakistan Navy to maintain collaborative security in the Indian Ocean and beyond. The visiting dignitary expressed these views during series of interactions he separately had on Thursday with Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Zubair Hayat, Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah, Chief of Air Staff Sohail Aman, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Minister for Defence Production Rana Tannveer Hussain. In his meeting with Admiral Zakaullah, the visiting dignitary held detailed discussions on professional matters and bilateral naval collaboration in diverse fields.
A comprehensive brief on PN s operational developments was also given to the visiting dignitary. Admiral Zakaullah thanked Vice Admiral RC Wijegunaratne for active participation by Sri Lankan Navy in Multinational Naval Exercise AMAN 17 to join hands for common resolve of Together for Peace . Sri Lankan Naval Chief highly lauded the efforts of Pakistan Navy to maintain collaborative security in the Indian Ocean and beyond. Vice Admiral RC Wijegunaratne also called on Federal Minister for Defence Production, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Chief of the Army Staff and Chief of the Air Staff during his engagements at Islamabad. Earlier during his visit to Karachi Vice Admiral RC Wijegunaratne attended different events of Multinational Naval Exercise AMAN 17, including International Fleet Review and graced the Session-II of International Maritime Conference, International Band Display and Maritime Counter Terrorism Demo as Chief Guest. The dignitary called on Naval Field Commands at Karachi and laid wreath at mausoleum of Quad-e-Azam. Sri Lankan Naval Chief also visited Pakistan Navy War College Lahore.
Vice Admiral RC Wijegunaratne has had the honour to hold number of Command and Staff appointments including Command of SLNS SAYURA (Offshore Patrol Vessel), Commandant Naval and Maritime Academy, Flag Officer Commanding Naval Fleet, Director General (Services), Director Naval Operations/Special Forces/Maritime/Surveillance, Commander South Naval Area, Commander Eastern Naval Area, Director General of the Sri Lanka Coast Guard and Commander Special Boat Squadron.
Vice Admiral RC Wijegunaratne is an alumni of Pakistan Navy Staff College, a graduate of Karachi University of Pakistan and National Defence University Washington DC, USA. The visit is expected to greatly enhance the bilateral collaboration between the two Navies in various avenues.
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka and Australia has discussed co-operation in energy, agriculture, mining and education during talks during a state visit of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told a joint press conference that Australian education institutions had established links with Sri Lanka which was aspiring to be an education hub in South Asia. About 7,500 Sri Lankan students were also studying in Australia at present. Sri Lanka and Australia were also committed to making the Indian Ocean free for navigation.
Australia’s ability to support Sri Lanka’s energy sector as the country planned to boost economic growth was discussed, the statement said.
“Attention was also placed on maritime security and defence,” the statement said. The two countries had discussed opportunities in energy, mining, agriculture and tourism. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe spurned Australian gaming billionaire James Packer soon after coming to power in 2015 asking him not to come to Sri Lanka in this ‘lifetime’.
He had also criticized then Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot saying Australia was silent on human rights abuses by the Rajapaksa administration in return for stopping boat people coming from the island. But the relationship between the two countries are not damaged, Wickremesinghe said. Sri Lanka and Australia had established diplomatic relations 70 years ago.
Wickremsinghe’s visit is the first by a Sri Lankan Prime Minister after John Kothelawala visited the country in 1954.
Sri Lanka has invited Prime Minister Turnbull to visit the island. (Colombo/Feb15/2017)