Int'l anti-piracy task force has first-ever NZ commander

16:17, July 01, 2011      

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New Zealand navy officer Captain Jim Gilmour took command of an international task force to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden on Friday.

Gilmour took over from Singapore's Rear Admiral Harris Chan Weng Yip as Commander Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, in a Change of Command ceremony onboard USS MASON berthed in Djibouti Friday.

The CTF 151 is a coalition task force which disrupts piracy, protects maritime vessels and secures freedom of navigation in the Gulf of Aden and Somali basin region.

Gilmour was the first Royal New Zealand Navy officer to command a major multinational task force in recent decades, said a statement from the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF).

"Over 23,000 vessels transit through the Gulf of Aden and Somali basin annually and the risk of piracy in this region is very real. However, since CTF 151 was established there has been a significant reduction in the number of successful piracy attacks," said Gilmour, who will be in command for three months.

CTF 151, one of three task forces operated by US-led Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a 25-nation coalition based in Bahrain, focuses its operations on the Gulf of Aden and Somali basin, an area of 1.1 million square miles (2.85 million square km).

"I will be leading a multinational team with personnel from Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, and Canada until late September," said Gilmour.

"We have brought together a high-performing team, capable of commanding a task force of coalition maritime assets as CMF continues to achieve tangible positive effects in protecting regional and global trade," said Gilmour.

Two NZDF staff officers would support Gilmour in his role as commander of CTF 151.

"New Zealand is impacted by piracy, even far from our shores. This deployment demonstrates NZ Defence Force's commitment to protecting security and stability in the international maritime environment," said the NZDF statement.

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