NATO — Royal Netherlands Navy Assumes Command of NATO’s Counter Piracy Mission

Ear­li­er today, Com­modore Ben Bekker­ing (Roy­al Nether­lands Navy), assumed com­mand of Oper­a­tion Ocean Shield, NATO‟s counter pira­cy mis­sion from Rear Admi­ral Sinan Azmi Tosun (Turk­ish Navy) in the port of Jed­dah, Sau­di Ara­bia.

Cdre Ben Bekker­ing (left and Rear Admi­ral Sinan Azmi Tosun (right) on board HNLMS Evert­sen
Source: NATO
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As incom­ing Com­man­der, Com­modore Ben Bekker­ing stressed the need to remain vig­i­lant. “On Admi­ral Tosun‟s six-month watch, the suc­cess rate of pirates has seen a sharp decline. Pirates find it increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to deploy from the coast and hunt at sea. But the many inci­dents over the last few months, includ­ing attacks and hijack­ings, make it absolute­ly clear that we can‟t let our guard down. I see it as my absolute task to ensure the trend con­tin­ues and engage with all part­ners in the region to max­i­mize our com­bined effect.”

Onboard his flag­ship Rear Admi­ral Tosun sum­ma­rized his six months in com­mand, “Ocean Shield has been a high­ly sat­is­fy­ing and demand­ing deploy­ment for me. Dur­ing my tenure, the main suc­cess has been the sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tion in suc­cess­ful pira­cy actions which are now at their low­est lev­el since 2009. The high lev­el of coor­di­na­tion estab­lished between the counter pira­cy actors has undoubt­ed­ly played a con­sid­er­able part in con­tribut­ing to the decline in pira­cy. I believe that pow­er­ful and res­olute units of NATO‟s Counter Pira­cy Task Force, under the com­mand of Com­modore Bekker­ing will con­tin­ue to fight against pira­cy with the same enthu­si­asm dur­ing the next six-month peri­od”.

Stand­ing NATO Mar­itime Group 1 (SNMG1) is a multi­na­tion­al mar­itime force that is per­ma­nent­ly avail­able to NATO to per­form a wide range of tasks, from human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance to high­er inten­si­ty sea con­trol oper­a­tions. As such, SNMG1, togeth­er with SNMG2, pro­vide the high readi­ness imme­di­ate reac­tion com­po­nent of the NRF. In addi­tion, both Groups are reg­u­lar­ly deployed in NATO-oper­a­tions, most notably Active Endeav­our and Ocean Shield. As of next week this mar­itime group will take com­mand of NATO‟s Counter Pira­cy mis­sion, code named“Operation Ocean Shield. The com­man­der of SNMG1 is com­modore Ben Bekker­ing. He and his inter­na­tion­al staff of 24 are embarked in the Air Defence and Com­mand frigate HNLMS Evert­sen.

By rotat­ing the Stand­ing Mar­itime Groups, a rel­e­vant and cred­i­ble NATO pres­ence can be main­tained in the Gulf of Aden and around the Horn of Africa. Along­side two oth­er task forces, one from the Euro­pean Union and one from the Coali­tion Mar­itime Forces oper­at­ing from Bahrain, and inde­pen­dent deploy­ers from nations such as Chi­na, Rus­sia, Japan and India, NATO‟s TF 508 plays an impor­tant role in the con­cert­ed inter­na­tion­al effort to ensure mar­itime secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty by enabling free pas­sage at sea.

Allied Com­mand Oper­a­tions