Headquarters of international alliance to protect safety of maritime navigation opened

Marshall Shaikh Khalifa opening the headquarters of the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) Task Force

Marshall Shaikh Khalifa opening the headquarters of the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) Task Force

By Habib Toumi

Manama: The headquarters of the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) Task Force, an international alliance that aims “to protect the safety of maritime navigation and international trade”, have been opened in Bahrain.

The premises within the US Naval Support Activity were inaugurated by Field Marshall Shaikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, the Commander-in-Chief of Bahrain Defense Force, in the presence of Bahraini, Saudi, Emirati and US officers and officials.

In July, the Central Command said it was developing “a multinational maritime effort, Operation Sentinel, to increase surveillance of, and security in, key waterways in the Middle East to ensure freedom of navigation in light of recent events in the Arabian Gulf region.”

“The goal of Operation Sentinel is to promote maritime stability, ensure safe passage, and de-escalate tensions in international waters throughout the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait (BAM) and the Gulf of Oman,” the Central Command said.

“This maritime security framework will enable nations to provide escort to their flagged vessels while taking advantage of the cooperation of participating nations for coordination and enhanced maritime domain awareness and surveillance.”

Stressing that the United States has committed to supporting the initiative, the Central Command said that contributions and leadership from regional and international partners would be required to succeed.

U.S. officials have been coordinating on Operation Sentinel with allies and partners in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Details touched on the nature of deployments, ports for naval presence and the mandate.

Marshall Shaikh Khalifa during the opening ceremony

Marshall Shaikh Khalifa during the opening ceremony

In August, Bahrain, host to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, became the first Arab and Gulf country to announce officially that it would join a U.S.-led maritime coalition “to ensure freedom of navigation in the Gulf.”

Bahrain said it was a “duty to preserve the safety of maritime navigation and secure international corridors for trade and energy.”

In September, Saudi Arabia said it was joining the IMSC and a Saudi Defense Ministry official explained that the alliance “aims to protect commercial vessels by ensuring the right of the freedom of navigation, provide safety for international trade, and protect the interests of allied countries.”

‏The Saudi decision to participate is based on its declared support for regional and international efforts to deter threats to maritime safety, the official said.

‏The Kingdom will work with its allies to ensure the security of energy routes and the continued flow of supplies to the global economy, and to maintain international peace and security, the official added.

One day later, the UAE said it was joining the alliance “in support of regional and international efforts to deter threats to maritime navigation and global trade.”

The UAE’s accession is also in order to secure the flow of energy supplies to the global economy and to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, the UAE said.

“The alliance protects the interests of its members and their merchant ships when passing through maritime corridors. Its operation area covers the Strait of Hormuz, Bab Al Mandab, the Sea of Oman and the Arabian Gulf.”

Albania has become the seventh member of the alliance, joining the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain in contributing to the IMSC.

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